Jun 19, 2014, 9:55 AM EST
LeBron James reportedly doesn’t want to take a salary cut in order to save Heat owner Micky Arison money. That’s apparently not a new concern.
It’s been festering.
The Heat paid the luxury tax the previous two years, and they’ll pay it again this season. But in the last year, they’ve really dialed back their spending.
- They amnestied Mike Miller.
- Instead of using a draft pick to upgrade their roster, they used it as a sweetener to unload Joel Anthony’s contract.
- They didn’t use the mid-level exception, their primary tool for adding another rotation-caliber player.
Miami has allowed its roster to stagnate and age, creating a lack of depth really showed in the Finals.
If the Heat had spent more to build a deeper team, maybe they’d be NBA champions – and not waiting on a mum LeBron.
a victory for the Heat at this stage likely means getting James to commit for one more season. Again, this is not ideal. When that infamous “not five, not six …” speech was delivered, James was under the impression that he would be staying in Miami for a second long-term contract. Despite a strong and historic run, James isn’t ready to commit to that given the current state of the team.
The Heat are the favorites; this is not in question. But there is a window of doubt due to the way the season ended, Wade’s health and some bitterness James harbors that Micky Arison put the brakes on spending over the past year.
That is why his most likely path is to opt out of his contract after the draft so that he will maximize his flexibility while putting teams on the clock.
This would force the Heat to take action on the free-agent market to improve the roster and, essentially, spend money even though they are facing significant luxury-tax penalties. It would also buy time for James to meet with other teams and examine plans and for rival teams to make trades or signings to potentially make them more attractive. Some deals are more likely to happen in July rather than in late June.
But this is absolutely a time to apply pressure.
Chasing Carmelo Anthony has been presented as a way to upgrade the roster. But if Miami creates cap room to sign him, there’s nearly no way they’ll pay the luxury tax season. It’s just too difficult, under Collective Bargaining Agreement Rules, to dip that far below the salary cap and then exceed the luxury-tax line within a single year. It’s not coincidence the Heat didn’t pay the tax in their first year with LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Really, a run at Melo is a great stealth way to trim payroll.
In 2015-16, especially if LeBron signs a reduced one-year contract this summer and then sought to re-up for a max deal once Melo was in the fold, the tax hit could be large. But maybe by then, Arison will have found other ways to trim salary. Would LeBron give Arison a year’s cushion on the hope spending increased the following year?
LeBron could opt out now, and that would really apply pressure on the Heat. But if they’re not motivated already, something is wrong.
The big three, especially LeBron, generate a lot of revenue for Arison. That doesn’t mean Arison must spend like the Nets to appease them, but quite likely, being thrifty and losing LeBron would be a net loss.
LeBron is just reminding Arison of that fact. If he opts out to really hammer it home, so be it.
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