Remember that game earlier this season when the Lakers put about $72 million dollars worth of talent on the floor against our measley $10 million? They beat us, of course, but not as much as one would expect. The margin was only 11 points--though looking at the line-ups, it would have been reasonable to expect a number closer to 60. It would have been about 60 if the Lakers hadn't treated it more like an exhibition game actually played hard. It was fun watching Bynum and DJ both have career games, but it was clear from Odom's crotch grab during a dunk what he and perhaps the rest of the Lakers thought about our team. That night (and most nights in the last umphteen million seasons) the Lakers have had the superior personnel in the hallway series. But with superior personnel comes the larger payroll. And with the economy being what it's been, the Lakers and their seeming disregard for the salary cap may soon be reminiscing about better days.
$53,135,000: The salary cap number for the 2006-2007 season.
$55,630,000: The salary cap number for the 2007-2008 season.
$58,680,000: The salary cap number for the 2008-2009 season.
$52,012,623: The salary cap number for the 2009-2010 season...? No.
That's the amount of money the Lakers have already committed in 2009 to three players: Kobe, Gasol, & Bynum. Add another $22,092,468 worth of contracts to the other players on the team and what do they have? $74,105,091 committed to a total of 8 players on their roster. Unfortunately, the collective bargaining agreement requires all NBA team rosters to carry a minimum of 14 players. To make matters MUCH, MUCH worse for our co-tenants down the hall...absolutely none of that money (zero. zip. nada.) is tied up with either Lamar Odom or Trevor Ariza. (Not a penny is tied up with Shannon Brown either.) At least they got Adam Morrison tied up with a guaranteed contract. *chuckle*.
How much are the extra six players going to add to their payroll? Well, the highest team payroll is $94 million this season courtesy of the NY Knicks. If the Lakers follow their lead, they'd have about $20 million to offer six players. They could...but they won't. I'm thinking that, more likely, they'll be looking to dump salaries much like the Knicks and the Nuggets this season. Last year's starters in exchange for draft picks...! Bad timing with this season being such a shallow draft. And with other teams around the league having similar financial issues, would there be any takers?
2009 will be a different year. BD made mention of it--saying that he's learned he needs to assert his will on this team from the opening tip. Even Zach said that, for the first time in his career, he would use the off season to get himself in better physical shape. Hopefully, both Fred Jones and Mardy Collins will be in game shape themselves instead of being asked to play after being out of the league and being buried in the bench, respectively. Al Thornton, for the last several games, may have figured out what he needs to do to be the consistent 20ppg scorer and contributor. EJ will have realized that he was beaten out of the rookie of the year by a player he completely outclassed in their meetings this season and (hopefully) will come out with a chip on his shoulder next season. 2009 will be a different year indeed, if the Clippers recognize that Los Angeles may very well be theirs for the taking. Of course, the Lakers being the Lakers, I'm sure they could magically get out of this mess they've created and I, along with everyone else who is watching, will try to figure out how they managed to avoid having to rebuild all over again and remain relevant in the league... Yes, they could, but I wouldn't hold my breath. As sqrebck puts it: Lakers look likely to implode.