Victories coming at a high price for Lakers owner Jerry Buss


The Lakers don’t have the NBA’s best record this season, but they lead the league in something else -- highest payroll.

For better or worse, because sometimes it’s a curse, the Lakers have a player payroll of $91.3 million and will spend an additional $21.4 million in luxury taxes if their roster remains the same on the final day of the regular season.

Their total salary bill would be $112.7 million if they make no trades or minor free-agent acquisitions. Comparatively, they spent about $86 million last season, including luxury taxes.

None of this includes Phil Jackson‘s $12-million salary to coach this season.

Basically, owner Jerry Buss keeps reaching for his checkbook.

“As long as we keep winning, I think he’ll keep doing it,” center Andrew Bynum said.

The Lakers are typically among the top five NBA payrolls, but New York and Dallas have been the big spenders in recent seasons, joined also by Boston, Utah and San Antonio.

The Knicks, however, have been on a salary-shedding spree in anticipation of next summer’s free-agency pool, and the Mavericks now have the second-largest payroll, about $4 million below the Lakers’.

A big difference for the Lakers this season is Bynum’s contract extension kicking into gear, moving from $2.7 million last season to $12.5 million.

Kobe Bryant will make $23 million, Pau Gasol earns $16.5 million and Lamar Odom will make $7.5 million. The Lakers have numerous players in the $5-million area: Ron Artest ($5.9 million), Adam Morrison ($5.3 million), Derek Fisher ($5 million), Sasha Vujacic ($5 million) and Luke Walton ($4.8 million).

It’s a lot of money. The Lakers better win it all to please their owner, no?

“It doesn’t add any pressure,” Bynum said. “It just makes us more confident because we know we have a team that’s capable of beating everybody.”

In a league where Jermaine O’Neal makes $23 million, Kenyon Martin gets $15 million, Larry Hughes makes $14 million and Bobby Simmons earns $11 million, the Lakers don’t appear to have any colossal blunders on their books, though the oft-injured Walton still has three years and $16.7 million left on his deal after this season.

Buss might not be done spending.

There have been intermittent discussions for a contract extension for Bryant that would keep him with the team through 2013-14. Like Bryant, Gasol is also in line for an extension when his contract expires after the 2010-11 season.

Gasol in pain?

Gasol is experiencing soreness again.

“A lot of it,” he said Friday, before quickly clarifying.

“Not in the hamstring. I mean overall, just from not playing for a while. There’s no workout compared to a basketball game.”

Gasol said the strained right hamstring that kept him out of the first 11 games felt fine, but his back and leg muscles were feeling the effects of playing 35 minutes Thursday against Chicago.

Despite Gasol’s 24-point, 13-rebound effort, Jackson couldn’t help himself when asked if Gasol informed him of any pain. “He always has something wrong with him,” Jackson said, smiling.

Bynum smarting too

Bynum rolled his right ankle Thursday while defending Chicago center Brad Miller but said he would play Sunday against Oklahoma City.

Bynum has already been dinged up a few times this season. He suffered a strained elbow and a sore right triceps after being fouled by Houston center Chuck Hayes earlier this month.

“All kinds of different things,” Bynum said. “Luckily, it’s really not that serious.”

So much practice

Jackson usually gives the team a day off every week, but not this week. There were no games scheduled Friday or Saturday, but the players were told to report to the team training center in El Segundo.

“Normally, I probably wouldn’t have a practice [Friday], but we want to just keep pushing the envelope on what we are capable of and not settling for just being good, but being the best we can,” Jackson said. “We think it takes a little extra practice to put all these pieces in place.”

On Friday, the team looked at video from Thursday’s game before the reserves played a three-on-three half-court scrimmage.

None of the starters were required to scrimmage Friday. Neither was Odom.