New CBA looms over NBA trade discussions
Many already have been, in markets big and small. The Oklahoma City Thunder traded star guard James Harden to Houston rather than make him the third max-money player on the team and the Memphis Grizzlies dumped leading scorer Rudy Gay and valuable reserve Marreese Speights in separate deals earlier this season to start getting their financial house in order.
New Grizzlies owner Robert Pera disputed the notion that sending Gay to Toronto was a salary dump, but also pointed out that teams have to spend their money wisely.
"Whether I'm worth a billion dollars or 10 billion dollars, I don't think throwing money is the way to get a best result," he said. "You look at the Lakers. They threw together all these stars and a huge payroll, and it's not working out so far. You can't be cheap, and I don't think we are cheap."
Before fans in small markets start complaining that the game is still rigged against them, don't forget that Dallas let Tyson Chandler, the lynchpin of their title team from 2010-11, leave to team up with Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire in New York. Chicago did not match Houston's offer for up-and-coming center Omer Asik and the Knicks let Jeremy Lin leave for Houston.
The Associated Press spoke with three team officials and two agents about the effect the new agreement will have on trades this week, and on roster construction going forward. Several said it could be the end of the teams like the current Miami Heat, where three marquee free agents teamed up to chase titles.
Next season, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are scheduled to earn about $62 million, an enormous percentage of a luxury tax level that figures to be in the $72 million range.
"I just don't see how teams are going to be able to afford to do that anymore," one league executive said. "Not only are there financial penalties to think about, but operational penalties as well that will make it very difficult."
Still, some teams might take the tax hit.
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak has said repeatedly they intend to keep center Dwight Howard, and re-sign him to an extension this summer that will pay him more than $20 million annually. With Kobe Bryant due more than $30 million and Pau Gasol another $19 million-plus next season, that would likely put the Lakers at the luxury tax level with just those three players. And Brooklyn's mega-billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov has said repeatedly that money is no object for him in chasing a title.
And if superstars want to continue teaming up in trios to tackle the rest of the league, they may have to take bigger discounts to do it.
"It's not all about money," James, who could be a free agent after next season, said earlier this year. "It's about winning. I know that and I don't mind."
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AP Sports Writer Michael Marot in Indianapolis and AP freelance writer Clay Bailey in Memphis, Tenn., contributed to this report.