HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Who says the Los Angeles Lakers are no longer champs? They ran away with one title last season — the luxury tax title.
We knew the Lakers’ 2012-13 season would come with a hefty price. But many of us also thought it might end with the latest L.A. super team challenging the Miami Heat in The Finals. Instead, the season turned tragic early and the Lakers never recovered from what will go down as arguably — or not — the most disappointing season in franchise history.
And now it’s time to pay the piper. The Lakers, who traded for Dwight Howard and Steve Nash last summer to join Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, must pony up on a whopping luxury tax bill of $29.26 million. The total more than doubles the next-closest over-spender, the two-time champion Heat, who owe $13.35 million. The free-spending Brooklyn Nets must pay $12.88 million.
The New York Knicks ($9.96 million), Chicago Bulls ($3.93 million), handed their first-ever luxury-tax bill, and Boston Celtics ($1.81 million) are the only other luxury-tax payers from the 2012-13 season, the last of the old dollar-for-dollar tax. The price of overspending goes up this season when harsher tax rates kick in.
But since we’ve brought up the Knicks, Deeks also delivers a look at the 10 seasons the luxury tax has been applicable and how much each team has paid. While Charlotte, Golden State, the Los Angeles Clippers, Seattle/Oklahoma City, New Orleans and Washington have managed to never exceed the luxury-tax threshold, well, the Knicks have spent for all of them.
New York’s total luxury-tax tab since 2002-03: $205,250,551.
Too bad the franchise can’t claim it as money well spent. In that span, the Knicks made four playoff series and won only one series — this year in a first-round series against a Celtics team that was dismantled soon after.
At least the Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban can claim a run of nine consecutive playoff appearances, two Finals appearances and a 2011 championship for their total luxury-tax bill of $150,530,433. Last season was the first time the Mavs did not cross the luxury-tax threshold — they also snapped their playoff streak.
The Lakers, to no surprise, finished third at $113,676,992, and with back-to-back championships of which the Knicks can only dream.
Deeks’ compilation makes for a fascinating look at how teams spend. For instance, coming in fourth is a surprise entrant, the Portland Trail Blazers. They racked up $80.8 million of their total $89.1 million bill in the first two seasons of the tax. In 2003, when Portland was a first-round loser to Dallas, the franchise paid $51.97 million in luxury tax as Scottie Pippen, Rasheed Wallace, Shawn Kemp and Damon Stoudemire combined to make $60.9 million.
At the other end, Houston and Detroit both have paid less than $1 million in total luxury taxes. The Bucks haven’t paid since 2003 and San Antonio has hit luxury-tax territory just five times and only twice has it had to pay more than $900,000.
This time next year should be fun because the Lakers and Nets could set all-time luxury-tax records under the new, harsher penalties. Early projections for the Nets’ luxury-tax bill stands at around $70 million.