NBA Trade Rumors: Lakers Choose Cash over Contention by Turning Down Beasley

Josh MartinNBA Lead WriterFebruary 29, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 09:  Michael Beasley #8 of the Minnesota Timberwolves goes up for a shot over Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on November 9, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers won 99-94.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

It's official folks, the Los Angeles Lakers have joined the ranks of the penny pinchers.

Okay, so maybe they're not the Cleveland Cavaliers or New Orleans Hornets, but the Jim Buss Era of management may have the team well on its way there.

According to ESPN's Chris Broussard, the Lakers turned down the opportunity to acquire Michael Beasley from the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for one of their two first-round picks in the 2012 NBA Draft, allegedly for financial reasons more than anything else. Adding Beasley and his $6.2 million salary to the payroll would've saddled the franchise with an additional $6.2 million in luxury tax fees.

This, on top of the $18 million the Lakers will currently owe on their $88 million payroll, which is well above the cap of $70 million and currently ranks as one of the highest in the league.

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 16: Lamar Odom #7 of the Dallas Mavericks drives down the court against Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on January 16, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers won 73-70.  NOTE TO USER: User express
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The decision shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, given that the deal that sent Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks in December was more of a salary dump than anything else. Team owner Jerry Buss and his offspring are well aware of the additional stiff penalties they're due to face under the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement.

The Lakers could certainly use a young, athletic wing scorer like Beasley, especially after the former No. 2 pick dropped 27 points on the cross-hall Clippers on Tuesday night. The small forward position has been an absolute black hole in Mike Brown's lineup this season, one that Metta World Peace and Matt Barnes have struggled so mightily to fill.

To acquire a player of Beasley's gifts, baggage and all, for no more than a pick in the 20s would've been an absolute steal, particularly for a team as badly in need of an infusion of youth as the Purple and Gold.

What's more, as understandable as Buss' financial concerns may seem on the surface, let's not forget that they're still in charge of the most valuable franchise in the NBA and will soon be reaping the reward of a multi-billion-dollar television deal with Time Warner.

Surely, the family can afford to shell out the money necessary to keep the team in title contention, if only through the final few years of Kobe Bryant's current contract. Now is not the time for the Lakers to scale back on salary, not while they still have a core capable of contending for championships.

How quickly the ownership seems to have forgotten that their willingness to splash cash on players—from Kobe and Shaquille O'Neal to Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum—played a big part in their return to the top of the NBA over the last decade-and-a-half.

Then again, there's still two weeks to go until the trade deadline, two weeks for the front office to change course, if not reverse it entirely, in pursuit of a deal to improve the team.

Let's just hope the Lakers have an able captain at the helm, one who can better locate where the rudders are on this sinking ship.