As free agency signings continue to be consummated left and right this summer, many Thunder fans are growing frustrated while waiting for the day Oklahoma City makes a move.
But the Thunder, with a payroll approaching $70 million, has remained prudent.
It’s an approach that has sparked confusion and criticism, with some labeling the Thunder content and even cheap. In reality, the right move just doesn’t appear to be available. A 60-win team last season, the Thunder has a stacked roster that simply doesn’t leave many minutes or much money for additions. For those reasons and more, Oklahoma City has taken a pass on trying to win points in press conferences and with fans through splashy free agent signings.
The Thunder isn’t alone.
Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird recently said his team also will not go over the tax “for any reason” this season. The Pacers, like Oklahoma City, have a talented roster with a mix of veterans and a few promising pups that will soon command hefty contract extensions.
They also play in a small market.
Bird was a little blunter when I asked him today to elaborate on why teams like Oklahoma City and Indiana can’t toy around with the tax.
“Because we can’t afford it,” Bird said. “It’s like buying a used car and a new car. If you got the money to buy a used one, you better get the used one.”
Bird then said something interesting. He said the Pacers owners essentially have done the same thing the Thunder’s owners have done. That’s sign off on the front office assembling a roster that is as competitive as possible but one that doesn’t push the team past the tax threshold. Indiana’s payroll also is approaching $70 million. The projected tax threshold for the 2013-14 season is $71.6 million.
“Our owners went out and have done everything they could this year so we could be up close to the tax,” Bird said. “We just can’t fight the tax. It’s always going to be a disadvantage for us. I feel bad for Oklahoma. They had a great team and they had to make a trade. They were right there. But we’re going to have to do the same in the future. We’re always fighting an uphill battle with revenues. But that’s part of who we are. And we do the best we can with what we have.”