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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

The Lakers, with their gaudy LA television contract, and the Nets, with their Russian billionaire, treat the luxury tax like the stop between Boardwalk and Park Place. Pay $75 and go on about your business.

The Nets' salary commitments for next season are at $94 million, and that's for only 10 players. Brooklyn's luxury tax bill next summer figures to be $50 million. So Mikhail Prokhorov is spending at least $150 million for his payroll next season. And still might not get past the first round of the playoffs.

And just wait until the repeater tax kicks in for summer 2015. If the Nets want to go $30 million over the luxury tax threshold, they could owe $110 million in penalties. But that's monopoly money to Prokhorov, who made his fortune in precious metals and now wants NBA gold.

The NBA always has had migrant superstars. Wilt Chamberlain, at age 28, traded from the Warriors to the 76ers. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, also 28, sent from Milwaukee to the Lakers. Moses Malone, 27, jumping from Houston to Philadelphia in free agency. Shaquille O'Neal, 24, jumping from Orlando to the Lakers.

But now we've got the aggregation, which has produced three of the past six NBA titles (Boston one, Miami two). Either players forming their own tandem to join a team, or teams conspiring to add a dynamic duo.

Which inspires copycats. Not just the Lakers and Nets, but the likes of Dallas and Atlanta, too, both of whom had or have hopes of luring the likes of Howard and Paul together.

Alas, neither the Mavs nor the Hawks play near the ocean, so good luck with that.

Dallas and Atlanta, not exactly Baltic and Mediterranean on the NBA board, are like the rest of us in the league. Having to get by partly on draft luck and mostly on smarts, while quietly seething that the collective bargaining agreement has been a big bust.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at

by Berry Tramel
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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