Los Angeles Lakers: Collective Bargaining Agreement

The Lakers should worry about now now, and later later

August, 16, 2011
8/16/11
11:10
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Accustomed as they are to almost absurd levels of star-driven, death-and-taxes, "Hey, another eastern sunrise!" success, Lakers fans aren't shy about looking to the future. They want assurances of continued success in a post-Kobe Bryant era. A little presumptuous? Annoying to, say, Pacers or Wizards fans? Yes, and yes, but this is what making the Finals every other year does to a city. Except here's the deal: The NBA's rank and file will soon have their revenge. Whenever the new CBA arrives, the landscape for the Lakers is virtually guaranteed to change, and not for the better.

Even more than the kind on the morning news, basketball meteorology is at best an inexact science, but the long range forecast for the Lakers hints at stormy skies. Among the reasons to keep an umbrella handy:
  • Assuming some form of hard cap, the Lakers will likely be faced with some tough personnel decisions in the next few years.
  • The existing roster is aging quickly, arguably their most appealing chip available to help alleviate the problem is 23 years old, and the draft is unlikely to provide a boost.
  • Between a hard cap and extended revenue sharing, the Lakers' ability not simply to get stars but also keep them will also be diminished, and meanwhile they'll be subsidizing the competitive efforts of other teams.
  • Kobe is nearly 33 years old, and has played more regular season and playoff minutes than all but 15 players in the history of the league. I don't care what super cool platelet therapy he's undergone, how many 360 dunks he's dropped at his camp, or whether Derek Fisher thinks he's spry. If I learned anything from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," mileage can't be peeled off the odometer. For Bryant, it's all about slowing the run towards basketball mortality, not moving away from it.

The Lakers will always be a money-making machine and L.A. a choice destination for NBA players, but as it relates to their current roster and the impending labor deal the purple and gold are a little like the boys of the Delta House after Dean Wormer revokes their charter. The future may look bleak, but in the here and now the Lakers are absolutely capable of laying waste to the homecoming parade. For all the hand-wringing over how last season ended- I was there, and it wasn't pretty- it's also easy to overreact. The Lakers were exhausted mentally and physically after three Finals runs, had a totally diminished Pau Gasol, comically bad outside shooting, and almost no production from their point guards and small forwards. They were scrambling just to look like a shell of themselves, yet still could (probably should) have won two of the first four games against Dallas.

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The Lakers have a lot on their plate this summer. There's a new coach to be hired, and a roster requiring targeted upgrades in the wake of their unceremonious exit in the second round of the playoffs.

Important stuff all, and all stuff we'll explore at length in the weeks and months ahead.


Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
For the time being, as president of the Player's Association, Derek Fisher's new uniform will be a business suit.


Unfortunately, this offseason seems likely to be like none in recent memory, both in length and significance, thanks to what seems like the overwhelming probability of a lockout. Certainly Derek Fisher, president of the NBPA, didn't sound all that optimistic at his exit interview last week. The uncertainty of the labor situation means the Lakers can do little to effectively prepare for a normal summer's work. Challenges abound. Once the stoppage is official, there is no contact between players and teams. Even if they could talk, planning for next season or subsequent ones, whether through trades or free agency, without knowing what rules will govern the league is next to impossible. The uncertainty bleeds into the coaching search as well, since any doubt about how they can reshape the roster impacts who the Lakers could choose to replace Phil Jackson.

Plus, there are financial considerations. The Lakers, like many teams around the Association, may not want to pay a guy to coach during a work stoppage. This along with big picture fears the new CBA might hamper large payroll teams like the Lakers.

To get a better feel for how the labor issues could impact the Lakers, I hit up ESPN.com's Larry Coon, a guy who knows more about the current salary cap structure and what could come than anybody you'll find. He's keeping a close eye on the situation, and answered some questions for us:

1. Setting aside the likelihood of the labor problems and new rules, how much flexibility do the Lakers have this off-season to make changes?

Larry Coon: The phrase that comes to mind regarding the Lakers is “pot committed.” The Lakers have constructed a championship roster, and locked it in for the next few seasons (essentially the lifetime of Kobe’s prime). This comes at the expense of an enormous payroll and little flexibility. Their most valuable players are guys they won’t trade (a possible Andrew Bynum for Dwight Howard deal notwithstanding), and their peripheral guys don’t have a lot of trade value -- guys like Ron Artest and Derek Fisher. Older vets help you win championships, but you can’t use them to tweak your roster on the fly.

If the new agreement resembles the current agreement, then the Lakers will have only the mid-level exception to work with. Their draft picks aren’t very valuable because they’ll be drafting entirely in the second round. By and large, they’re committed to the current roster.

2. What are the best and worst case scenarios for the Lakers with a new CBA, in terms of keeping a winning roster together for the next couple years?

L.C.: The owners’ proposal calls for a hard cap -- a salary cap that can’t be exceeded for any reason. As a big-market team, the Lakers thrive on the current soft cap -- one that allows teams to keep spending above the cap, albeit with certain restrictions.

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New Land O' Lakers PodKast with Bomani Jones

March, 11, 2011
3/11/11
11:15
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Big games like Thursday's in Miami mandate a big guest in studio for reflection. Bomani Jones (The Morning Jones, ESPN) qualifies on both counts. But the discussion wasn't limited to just the battle in South Beach. So much is happening these days in the NBA, we found ourselves recording two shows, both remain free of charge for the Land O' Lakers community! That's how much we care about y'all.

Here are the talking points.

PART I

PODCAST
Andy and Brian talk with Bomani Jones (The Morning Jones, ESPN) about Lakers-Heat, the Lakers' late-game execution, and Kobe's shoot-a-thon after the loss." Podcast Listen
- Our thoughts on the game itself. Chris Bosh's redemptive performance. The Lakers' fourth-quarter execution. Miami's supporting cast finally showing up. And Kobe Bryant's shot selection in the last few minutes.

- Bomani wonders if Kobe and Derek Fisher are too old as a starting backcourt. We also celebrate the concept of "Joe Smith" and what life would like at 6-feet-10 or taller.

- We dissect the bizarre dichotomy of how Pau Gasol regularly beasts the glass, yet still periodically feels "soft."

- Was Kobe's hour-long shooting practice after the Miami loss a reflection of his work ethic, a reflection of his desire to make sure you never forget his work ethic, or both? And why Kobe's personality always keeps people speculating.

PART II

PODCAST
Andy and Brian talk with Bomani Jones (The Morining Jones, ESPN) about the war of words between Stan Van Gundy and David Stern, the CBA, and whether the Dallas Mavericks remain a soft team." Podcast Listen
- The war of words between Stan Van Gundy and David Stern, the latter of whom sounded ready to leave a horse's head in the Magic coach's bed. The Commish loves heavy-handed reminders that he's in charge.

- Thoughts on the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the lunacy that is the Mid-Level Exception and why the players will never win the P.R. battle if there's a work stoppage. Or, for that matter, their personal financial battles.

- Bomani has tickets for an upcoming Prince concert. In related news, the K Bros are extremely jealous, and Carlos Boozer will not likely be in attendance.

- With Dallas next on the docket, we examine whether the Mavericks' "soft" reputation is earned or people refusing to let go of the past. Plus, how much different would the 2011 NBA landscape be if the 2006 Mavericks hadn't lost in the Finals?

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PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
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