Jeanie Buss confident in Lakers’ advantage despite limitations
The rules changed when the league adopted the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, but Lakers executive and owner Jeanie Buss is confident the franchise will navigate its way back to the top.
“We are in 100% in support of those agreements, but as much as they’d like to try to revenue share and make things equal -- our basketball expertise, they can’t revenue share away from us,” Buss said. “I believe that as they keep trying to make things more fair, they can never take away what the Lakers have -- our history, our experience, our brain power in our front office. We’ll always have an advantage.”
On Wednesday, at a Time Warner Cable Media event to honor her late father, Dr. Jerry Buss, Jeanie said the franchise willingly accepted the more stringent rules -- including steeper luxury taxes for teams over the salary cap -- for the good of the NBA.
“I think that the Lakers are one of 30 teams in a league that every team should have a fair opportunity to compete for a championship, to do well economically,” she said. “That’s what the collective bargaining agreement is about. That’s what revenue sharing is about.”
The Lakers paid $99.9 million for their roster this season, resulting in $29.6 million in luxury tax. For the same payroll total next season, the Lakers would be on the hook for a $78.2-million tax liability.
If the team also stayed near $100 million for the 2014-15 season, its “repeater tax” bill would run to approximately $85 million.
“It’s definitely a different set of challenges and every team’s got capologists and people who have to work numbers and try to make everything fit,” Buss said. “It just makes something a little bit more complicated but I have complete confidence that we’ll do well.”
Other restrictions for teams at least $4 million above the luxury tax threshold include smaller mid-level or biannual exceptions, more stringent salary matching in trades and an inability for to acquire players via sign-and-trade deals.
“We’re one of 30 teams that has to operate within a system. We’re part of a community and we’ll adhere to the rules,” Buss said. “I still think it doesn’t matter how much money you spend because there are teams that have tried to buy championships. It doesn’t work that way.
“It isn’t always just about the team with the highest payroll winning a championship. You have to know how to draft players, develop players and put the pieces together to complement each other in a way that the team is larger than just their [individual] pieces.”
Then again, the Lakers haven’t kept a first-round draft pick since 2007 (Javaris Crittenton).
The biggest question ahead is the choice of free-agent center Dwight Howard, who can re-sign in July or leave for another team.
While the Lakers cannot bring in a player via sign-and-trade, they legally could sign and trade him to another team -- as long as that franchise is not over the tax threshold, estimated to be $75.5 million this season.
The Lakers’ massive payroll is expected to shrink below the cap in 2014. Flexibility is an asset when building a team. This season ahead, the Lakers have limited options for improvement.
“It was a tough season because we all went into it thinking we’d still be playing right now. That didn’t happen and a lot of injuries, especially the [Achilles’] injury to Kobe Bryant -- we’re not used to having him out like that,” Buss said. “Also the passing of my father. We’re never going to be able to replace his leadership. He just was the best and we can only continue to try to fulfill the legacy that he built.”
While Jeanie Buss is responsible for the business side of the franchise, her brother Jim runs the basketball operations department.
It remains to be seen if, together, they will demonstrate the same instincts as their father, whose franchise win 10 championships after he purchased it in 1979.
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Email Eric Pincus at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.
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