HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — It seems straight out of the realm of the truly ridiculous, we know. We haven’t even seen these new-look Los Angeles Lakers, with Dwight Howard and Steve Nash in the fold with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace. Yet the rumblings about the Lakers’ next big move are already cranking up.
That next big move being the possible pursuit and acquisition of one LeBron Raymone James in free agency in 2014, per a report from Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com.
Now before you go over the edge, throwing stuff at your computer and knocking over trash cans, follow the logic on this thing:
Several teams’ executives have told ESPN.com they believe the Lakers are positioning themselves to make a run at LeBron James in 2014, when the Miami Heat star can choose to become a free agent.
… In the wake of the Howard trade, much as been made of the massive luxury-tax bill the Lakers are facing next season if they’re able to re-sign the big man. ESPN.com salary cap expert Larry Coon has estimated the Lakers could be on the hook for as much as $85 million just in taxes in 2013-14.
But look a little further, to that 2014-15 season, and you’ll see something else: The Lakers’ projected payroll is almost completely clear. Only Nash is signed for that season, at $9.7 million, though the Lakers will also be paying about $20 million to Howard if they can re-sign him this coming summer.
In July 2013, Bryant’s $30.4 million, Pau Gasol’s $19.2 million, Metta World Peace’s $7.7 million, Steve Blake‘s $4 million and Jordan Hill’s $3.5 million will come off the books. There likely won’t even be any first-round draft picks filling up the cap, either, as the Lakers have already traded their 2013 first-round pick to Phoenix in the Nash deal.
Opposing teams that are making their own long-range free agency plans think they see the Lakers’ plan coming into focus. As it stands, L.A. will have enough cap space to add a superstar like James.
“It’s not a mistake that all those deals end the same year Kobe’s does. They have probably been planning for their next phase for a while,” said one general manager. “The Busses and [Lakers GM] Mitch [Kupchak] are always thinking about the next big deal.”
There is a reason the Lakers have remained relevant in the championship conversation more consistently than any other team, including the Boston Celtics, the past 40 years.