Cuban has never been one to shy away from stating his thoughts on the Lakers organization, but it's his latest comments about the future of Bryant that have drawn a harsh response from the Lakers franchise.
The Mavericks owner—a knowledgeable observer of NBA finances—recently commented via ESPN Dallas Radio that he felt the Lakers' growing total salary and pending luxury tax meant they would be wise to use the amnesty clause on star guard Kobe Bryant.
“If you look at their payroll, even if Dwight (Howard) comes back, you’ve got to ask the question: Should they amnesty Kobe?”
That naturally drew a fierce response from the Lakers, who subsequently issued a statement addressing the Mavericks owner's suggestion (per ESPN).
We're aware of Mark Cuban's comments and feel they are inappropriate," Lakers spokesman John Black said. "As to the issue itself, we will not comment publicly on the amnesty issue as it relates to any of our players."
"I'll bet he did," was Bryant's chuckling response to the news.
However, as Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com notes, the very notion to amnesty Bryant isn't as crazy as it seems. In fact, given their current financial situation and the fact that Dwight Howard and Steve Nash are both commanding mega-dollar contracts, the amnesty clause really isn't that ridiculous after all.
It's just logical mathematics from Cuban.
MacMahon notes that the current total salary of the Lakers sits at around $100 million, which is likely to be at the same amount next year if Howard re-signs.
However, this is the last year before the dollar-for-dollar penalty for teams over the luxury tax limit comes in. That penalty would dock teams $1.50 per dollar that they are over the limit, and it escalates for every $5 million a team is over.
At the moment, the Lakers stand at $30 million over.
Thus, MacMahon notes the following:
If the Lakers are $30 million over, their luxury tax bill would be a whopping $85 million next season. If L.A. trims the payroll down to $20 million over the tax, the Lakers would still get hit with a $45 million bill. And they’d be subject to the even heavier repeater rate in 2014-15, although Steve Nash's $9.7 million salary is the only contract currently on the Lakers' books for that year.
[However], Bryant is on the books for a league-high $30.45 million salary next season, the last year of his contract.
Yet despite all of that, the Lakers still made the right move to shut down the amnesty talk and shrug off any inclinations about Kobe Bryant's future.
Not necessarily because using the clause on Bryant is the wrong move or because Cuban is wrong—simply because it isn't what their season needs right now.
Having endured a tough two months of trade speculation about Howard, Bryant and Nash, with team chemistry and performances suffering as a result of the speculation, the Lakers seem to have finally emerged from that stronger and more together as a franchise.
They are playing better, moving better and communicating better—and they're moving up the Western Conference standings as a result of that growth.
For Los Angeles to simply put itself back in the same position by discussing players' futures—especially that of Bryant—is just not worth it for this team. To undo all of the hard work and growth that's finally taken place and go through the mathematics of the amnesty clause simply isn't worth it for the franchise, so the Lakers were right to simply shrug off the talk.
There is little doubting that the Lakers are all too aware of their current financial situation and understand they have some big decisions ahead of them regarding the luxury tax.
However, those decisions don't need to be made by the front office guys now, and they certainly don't need to be commented on by Bryant, Howard or any of the Lakers' players. The finance staff are no doubt in charge of it all and on top of it, and the Lakers are wise to just let them do their jobs.
As a result, Bryant and Howard can do their jobs and push the Lakers back into the playoff picture for this season. Starting with their next basketball game this Sunday against the Dallas Mavericks, where they'll be looking to make it three wins in a row.
Who knows? Maybe they can silence Cuban on that front also.
Are Mark Cuban's comments about Kobe Bryant and amnesty talk valid?
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