Denton's Action and Reaction: Aug. 23

By John Denton
August 23, 2012

ORLANDO – For every action there’s a reaction. Let’s take a look at the headlines and newsmakers around the NBA and offer up a reaction.

ACTION: The price of trading for former Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard will be an incredibly steep one for the Los Angeles Lakers.

REACTION: As if the pressure to return the Lakers to championship glory and live up to the legacy of big men Mikan, Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar and O’Neal weren’t enough already, Howard will also have the pressure of knowing that L.A. is paying dearly for his services.

Adding Howard’s $19.2 million salary to a starting five that also includes Kobe Bryant ($27.8 million), Pau Gasol ($19 million), Steve Nash ($8.9 million) and Metta World Peace ($7.2 million) bloats the Lakers payroll to $99.1 million next season. To put that in perspective, that’s nearly $15 million more than the next highest NBA team (Brooklyn) and $16.2 million more than the defending champion Miami Heat.

That massive payroll will cost the Lakers an additional $30 million in luxury taxes next season. And if Howard ultimately signs a long-term contract with the Lakers as expected, 2012-13’s luxury tax this season will resemble chump change compared to the penalties ahead under the NBA’s new CBA.

Starting in 2013-14 the new incremental tax takes over and requires teams being $30 million above the tax line to pay an $85 million tax bill.

And it gets worse. Starting in 2014-15 teams will pay an even higher rate for being repeat offenders, which is defined as paying tax in at least three of the four previous seasons. A repeat offender team $30 million over the tax line will pay an additional $115 million in luxury tax.

The rub, of course, is that the Lakers are willing to pay such a steep price because they can afford it. The team recently inked a 25-year, $5 billion deal with Time Warner Cable that will pay it more than $150 million a season, allowing it to boost the payroll and ignore the tax hits.

The true flaw of the luxury tax is that the teams paying can afford to do so and it poses as little more than a speed bump to those franchises. One new change is that teams over the cap and paying the tax will be restricted in their ability to sign free agents. The hope is that that measure will bring some sort of competitive balance between the big markets and the small markets. One can only hope so or the migration to the bigger markets will continue, leaving the smaller markets as figurative farm systems for the franchises in Los Angeles, New York, Miami and Chicago.

ACTION: After Jason Kidd backed out of an agreement to sign a free-agent deal with Dallas, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban vowed that the veteran point guard’s jersey would never be retired by the Mavs.

REACTION: Cuban claims that the Mavs and Kidd had an agreement on a three-year, $9.5 million deal this summer that would have almost assuredly allowed him to retire as a Maverick. That’s the organization he started with and helped to win its first NBA title two seasons ago.

But to the shock of many, Kidd backed out of his Dallas deal and signed a contract of equal value with the New York Knicks. Originally, the thought was that Kidd was being brought in to mentor Jeremy Lin, but Lin ultimately bolted for the Houston Rockets. Now, Kidd and Raymond Felton will split time at point guard for the Knicks. And that, ultimately, will doom any chances the Knicks have of ever getting very deep in the playoffs.

Clearly, Kidd thought that the Knicks had a better chance to win than the rebuilding Mavs. And many players like to experience playing in New York at some point in their career – and, no, playing for the New Jersey Nets does not count in Kidd’s case.

But for Kidd to back out of an agreement is out of line for his usually classy and professional manner. Cuban is right to be hurt and infuriated after being betrayed by a player he had grown close to the last couple of seasons. He will undoubtedly carry a grudge through the next season, but ultimately I wouldn’t be shocked if he relented and retired Kidd’s No. 2 jersey after the point guard enters the Hall of Fame.

``I was more than upset,’’ Cuban told a Dallas radio station. ``I thought he was coming. J. Kidd is a big boy; he can do whatever he wants. But you don’t change your mind like that. I’m sure I’ll get over it at some point, but as of now, I wouldn’t put J. Kidd’s number in the rafters.’’

Cuban went onto say that his feelings were hurt by Kidd’s defection and added: ``He’s a good guy, but I just thought that was wrong. You can’t put a guy’s number in the rafters when he decides he doesn’t want to be there.’’

ACTION: Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul will be out of action the next two months and could miss the start of training camp after having surgery to repair a torn ligament in his thumb.

REACTION: Ahhhh, the Clippers curse continues. Blake Griffin hurts his knee practicing with Team USA, Chauncey Billups goes down last season in Orlando with an Achilles tear and won’t be ready for the start of the season and now Paul needs a surgery. You get the sense if Cal Ripken would have played basketball and suited up for the Clippers that he’d have never made it thought a week of games without getting injured.

The Clippers franchise experienced a refreshing revival last season, but already that excitement seems short-lived. No longer is anyone foolishly talking about L.A. being a ``Clipper town,’’ and no longer does anyone consider the Clippers to be the best team in town.

Paul suffered his injury during training camp with Team USA, but played through the pain and helped the Americans win the gold medal. The hope is that he will be healthy enough to return by the start of training camp, but the likelihood is that he will miss most of the exhibition season.

Paul had to be irate after the Lakers acquired Howard and Nash this summer because it lessens his chances of winning a title even more. The Clippers have a nice team, but in no way are they championship contenders.

With him able to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, Paul might become the next star to leave his team in hopes of joining another star player. He is close friends with LeBron James, and there are some in the NBA who believe that Paul might try to angle his way to Miami when he becomes unrestricted. If the Heat were to lose to the Lakers in the Finals next spring, would they possibly offer up Chris Bosh and spare parts for Paul to run the point in South Florida?

ACTION: revealed the results from its rookie survey and Magic first-round pick Andrew Nicholson finished in a four-way tie as the Most Overlooked Rookie category.

REACTION: surveyed 39 of the rookies anonymously during the annual NBA Rookie Photo Shoot in Tarrytown, N.Y. The rookies were not allowed to vote for themselves or their college or NBA teammates.

Nicholson, who was selected No. 19 by the Magic in the first round, tied with Golden State’s Draymond Green, Oklahoma City’s Perry Jones III and Memphis’ Tony Wroten in the Most Overlooked Rookie category.

It’s a fitting award for Nicholson, who didn’t start playing basketball until his junior year of high school, played collegiately at St. Bonaventure and spent all four years in school. Nicholson is also deceptive in that he has long arms, excellent footwork and his smarts are off the charts. Nicholson played quite well in the AirTran Orlando Summer League and could help give the Magic a consistent low-post scorer this season off the bench.

Anthony Davis, the first overall pick in the draft by New Orleans, was the landslide winner in the Rookie of the Year projections. He was also the leading vote-getter in the category in which the rookies project the player likely to have the best NBA career. Atlanta’s John Jenkins was voted the best shooter, while Charlotte’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was picked as the best defensive player. Phoenix’s Kendall Marshall was considered the best playmakers, while Boston’s Fab Melo was picked as the funniest rookie.

Of the rookies, 38.6 percent said the biggest adjustment to the NBA from college basketball would be the speed and pace of the game. Thirty one percent of the rookies picked James as their favorite NBA player.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Magic and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.



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