So, how does Fertitta explain his view on the luxury tax now? Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Fertitta: “It’s a horrible hindrance. And if any of y’all ever want to really understand it, go do the math on it. I mean, it’s just brutal. You can take 5 million, and all of a sudden you look up, and it costs you 20 million. And at some point, you have to be smart, and you cannot get into the repeater tax, which happens if you’ve been in the luxury tax three years in a row. And that’s something to really look at. And at some point, you have to do some things so you never go in the repeater tax. You’re just dead in the water, and it can ruin your franchise for years. So, it’s something you have to be cognizant of.”
Chicago cut bait on the Butler era. The Kings wanted no part of a supermax for DeMarcus Cousins. Some within the Pacers had qualms about a supermax for Paul George, sources say — a dilemma that never came to pass, since George did not make an All-NBA team in 2017 before Indiana traded him. The Clippers re-signed Blake Griffin, then 28 and their first homegrown star in decades, to a regular 30 percent max — and traded him at the first opportunity for Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley on an expiring contract and a pick at the back of the lottery. We hailed it as a victory for LA.
Shifting this calculus backward on the age curve onto players in their late 20s makes me feel a little icky. The ickiness started to set in when the Bulls dealt Butler. Several executives around the league chuckled at my discomfort, suggesting I was naïve. These choices were just a product of teams getting smarter about injuries, aging, probabilities, and what it takes to win championships, they said. If you are going to re-sign Butler on a supermax, they told me, you have to know you will have enough championship equity (if that is a team’s measuring stick — a crucial and evolving factor) on the front end of the deal to justify the pain coming on the back end. Chicago didn’t. They started the cycle over instead of delaying a rebuild.
The league and union could do away with a seniority-based wage scale, so that pay would more accurately reflect production. The league has broached tweaks in past collective bargaining cycles, sources say, but it has been a non-starter. The union will obviously not accept a system in which max contracts decline as players age.
Regarding cap smoothing, Jared Dudley on the Woj podcast: “Michele Roberts is obviously a smart woman. She probably gauged both it ways. She probably talked about it. But, yeah, anytime the league comes to us – or vice versa. If we came to the league about something, they’ll fight back first and then they might let it go through.”
After keeping quiet for a week, Roberts, executive director of the players’ union, fired back over the weekend. In a series of emails, she rejected the idea of blaming the players’ decision on the issue known as cap smoothing as nonsense. General managers and coaches may want to blame the players for their teams not being good enough to contend for a championship, she said, but they have no one to blame but themselves. “Frankly, I have been amused by the chatter suggesting that smoothing — or more accurately the failure to smooth — has now become some folks’ boogeyman de jure,” Roberts said in an email. “While we haven’t yet blamed it for the assassination of MLK, some are now suggesting that it is responsible for all that is presumably wrong with today’s NBA.” “Needless to say, I beg to differ.”
Also, Roberts explained, instead of artificially depressing the salary cap, the league could have proposed advancing television money into 2015 and increasing spending. But it didn’t want to “in part because teams weren’t expecting an early Cap increase,” Roberts wrote. “Just the same way that they shouldn’t be faulted for seeking to meet teams’ expectations,” she added, “folks should recognize how important we felt it was to meet the reciprocal expectations felt by the players.” She dismissed the idea that the 2016 spike had caused a soft market this year. “We opened free agency with 9 teams that had significant Cap room, in excess of $10 million each,” she wrote. “Frankly, before the spike, that’s about as healthy of a start as we’ve ever had.”