One gone Laker: Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum, and Pau Gasol’s contracts make re-signing Jordan Farmar difficult
Jordan Farmar could be collateral damage. With Los Angeles on the hook for several big-ticket contracts, the Lakers will have trouble keeping their up-and-coming point guard.
In theory, the NBA’s soft salary cap allows each team unlimited resources. In reality, there is only so much money. Exceeding the luxury tax draws a dollar per dollar fine, so things get expensive.
Now consider the Lakers’ long-term salary structure. Conservative estimates have Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol earning a combined 41 million dollars, while Andrew Bynum likely gets extended for 12-15 million dollars per season. The total is 53 million dollars for three players.
The supporting cast isn’t cheap. Los Angeles annually drops 22 million dollars on Derek Fisher, Vlad Radmanovic, Luke Walton, and Sasha Vujacic. Those seven players alone put the purple-and-gold over last season’s luxury tax limit of 72 million dollars.
This is a projection. Some contracts could be moved. And Bryant most certainly receives a raise when he opts-out next July. But before dismissing these calculations as Enron blasphemy consider three points. First, the economy is teetering and revenues could decrease, which means less money for salaries. Second, these figures account for seven players. Most teams carry fifteen. And third, Lamar Odom hasn’t received a dime yet.
Paying Bryant, Gasol, Bynum, and re-signing Odom squeezes the Lakers. No other player could realistically earn above the mid-level exception. Valuable role players and blue-chippers may head for greener pastures elsewhere.
Losing Farmer, who averaged 9.2 points per game in 20 minutes of work, is a strong possibility. In limited playing time, he has shown speed, handles, vision, range, and tenacity. Best of all, the former UCLA Bruin has a high basketball IQ, reminding me of Toronto’s Jose Calderon.
No change is imminent. Los Angeles can keep their budding table-setter for three more years. The team holds the option for 2009-10 and can qualify him in 2010-11. An extension is doubtful, compromising six years of development.
Having several stars will be the Lakers’ luxury. Having anyone else could be the challenge.