NBA's luxury tax hasn't stopped the wealthier teams, but a lack of basketball smarts has

When you institute a system with a punitive luxury tax that scares off most franchises but is scoffed at by a few, competitive balance grows cloudy. But it's good for the NBA that the owners who can buy any ballplayer they want don't always buy brains, too.
by Berry Tramel Published: June 29, 2013
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Boy, that NBA collective bargaining agreement is looking good, don't you think?

You remember. The labor strife that cost us 16 games per team in the 2011-12 season and much consternation. The contract that was supposed to give the little guy a fighting chance in the NBA.

Let's see. Since that late November night when pro hoops yelled “Play Ball!,” here are the superstars who have migrated.

Chris Paul to Los Angeles. Dwight Howard to Los Angeles. Now Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn.

To quote F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was either an author or a Sacramento power forward, I forget which: “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.”

But it's good for the NBA that the owners who can buy any ballplayer they want don't always buy brains, too.

The Celtics back in 2007 started the fad of aggregating superstars. Then the Heat in 2010. Buoyed by both winning titles immediately or the next year, the Lakers adopted the strategy last summer and now come the Nets.

With less success. The Lakers went belly up last season despite adding Steve Nash and Howard; now LA is stuck with an old, slow, payroll-bloated roster.

It would be no great surprise if the same happens to Brooklyn. The Nets traded half their roster plus three first-round draft picks for a trio with a combined age of 109.

Brooklyn will have a bunch of wise veterans who can score. Not one of them with young legs. The Nets will be old and slow and hard-pressed to defend, despite the addition of Garnett, who still can police the paint at age 37.

If anything, the Nets passed the Knickerbockers — don't you love a good melodrama involving the super rich? — for fourth-best team in the East. But nothing else.

Still, it's a troubling trend for the NBA. We're lucky here in Oklahoma City, where young superstars are signed up for years to come. And down in San Antonio, the Spurs know what they're doing, which might not put them in the pole position but annually gives them a spot near the front row.

But most NBA outposts have to sit with their palms up, saying, what the heck?

When you institute a system with a punitive luxury tax that scares off most franchises but is scoffed at by a few, competitive balance grows cloudy.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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