Saying goodbye isn't always easy, but succumbing to such difficulties can be expensive. Just ask the Los Angeles Lakers.
Kevin Ding of the Orange Country Register is reporting that the Lakers have decided to amnesty Metta World World Peace.
Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times doesn't seem to think it's a done deal.
We're going to assume it is, because it should be.
Clad with the knowledge that Dwight Howard has decided to join the Houston Rockets, the Lakers are in a holding pattern. They don't have the available money to chase marquee free agents and the ones they can afford they don't want to sign to multiyear deals for fear of compromising their financial flexibility in 2014.
Waiting is all the Lakers can do at this point. Remaining patient, in hopes of scooping up any remaining pieces on one-year deals, will likely be their end game. Well, that, and using their amnesty clause.
Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Blake and World Peace were all eligible to be amnestied. Los Angeles isn't going to pay Kobe to leave for obvious reasons, even though he's pushing 35 and recovering from a ruptured Achilles. Blake's $4 million salary is but a blip on Tinseltown's financial radar, and the Lakers have no plans to part ways with Pau after losing Howard.
So we're left with Metta, who Dave McMenamin of ESPN notes was the clear choice:
A source familiar with the Lakers’ thinking told ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Ramona Shelburne they will not use their one-time amnesty provision on Pau Gasol during the July 10-16 window when the league allows teams to waive one player they signed prior to December 2011 without that money owed counting against their salary cap.
With Gasol back in the fold to slide over to center in Howard’s absence, that means the Lakers will most likely amnesty Metta World Peace.
While World Peace enjoyed a resurgent season last year, he is coming off minor knee surgery and waiving him would save the Lakers close to $25 million in salary and luxury tax fees.
Amnesty candidates are rarely in the last year of their contracts. The whole point of the provision is to get rid of lengthy, burdensome mistakes. Two years ago would have been the best time to part ways with World Peace, not now.
But nothing about the Lakers is ideal. If they were in the perfect situation, Howard wouldn't be a member of the Rockets, Kobe wouldn't be attempting to come back from a career-threatening injury and Gasol would get a haircut.
Two years ago, the Lakers were hell-bent on winning a championship, just like they always were. Rebuilding isn't something they do. A transition period for them comprises making upgrades, getting better. They would never be the team to pay someone to leave just because.
Then the 2012-13 campaign happened.
Hollywood fell as low as 17-25 and barely scraped a playoff berth. Injuries and tactical differences prevented the Lakers from becoming the powerhouse they were thought to be. What was once considered to be an ideal roster quickly became a nightmare.
Now the Lakers are here, looking beyond the 2013-14 crusade and toward next summer, when they'll be flush with cap space and have the means to pursue any two of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, among others.
World Peace doesn't factor into the equation. His days in Los Angeles were numbered one way or the other. He's wouldn't have been a member of the Lakers after next season. And the Lakers have reached the point where there's no use prolonging the inevitable.
Removing World Peace's $7.7 million salary from the books saves the Lakers more than $25 million, including luxury tax fees. For the first time in recent memory, saving money should be the only thing they're interested in.
Paying well into the luxury tax isn't for fringe playoff teams. And that's what the Lakers are, a team that may or may not make the postseason. If Howard was still in Los Angeles or if the Lakers were even a semblance of a contender, then a lavish financial commitment to its roster makes sense, or can be justified.
The Lakers are no longer that team. We don't know when Kobe is going to come back, how healthy he'll be when he is and how Gasol and Steve Nash's aging physiques will hold up, either.
This season is as close to a rebuilding year as the Lakers plan to come. They may miss the postseason for just the second time in the last two decades.
Why pay into the luxury tax for that type of uncertainty? Mitch Kupchak and the Buss family surely wouldn't have footed a $100-plus million roster bill this past season if they knew the end result.
Clinging to a playoff berth, then marching toward a first-round exit isn't indicative of the Lakers. Had you told the front office what they were in store for, someone would have been gone. The 2014 movement would have began then.
No one was privy to what would soon become hell in Hollywood, though. Los Angeles was supposed to rival the Miami Heat, not embark on what was a win-loss anomaly.
Leading into next year, the Lakers have fair warning. They're not going to win a championship. Let's just admit it, because chances are they already have.
A healthy Nash, Kobe and Pau have the ability to make some noise in the Western Conference, but that's not what the Lakers are getting. We're not predicting the slow and steady demise of any of them, either. Maybe Nash and Gasol stay healthy (a reach in itself). Maybe they'll be fine all year.
Kobe won't. Not in the beginning, when he's still rehabbing and eventually tasked with rekindling what could become a flickering flame.
So no matter how the Lakers spin it, their season isn't about contending. It can't be. Until they're whole, chasing titles is a pipe dream, and they won't have the means to become whole for another year. And expensive lottery teams are unflattering; they're pointless. Which brings us back to World Peace.
If it was Blake who was making $7.7 million next season, then the Lakers would gladly part ways with him. But his isn't the contract that will save them tens of millions of dollars—World Peace's is.
Admittedly, that's unfortunate. World Peace could have still been of value to Los Angeles, both for his defense and streaky shooting.
Only seven players averaged at least 12 points, five rebounds and 1.5 steals per game last season. One of them was Metta while the other six consisted of LeBron James, Rajon Rondo, Rudy Gay, Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young and Russell Westbrook.
Coming off a knee injury of his own, you don't rid yourself of a player who can still contribute—unless you have to.
Collateral damage is a necessary evil in trying times, just like it is in trade negotiations. And the Lakers have entered trying times, a one-year span in which they're better off saving money than attempting to perpetuate the exorbitant cost of what is, at best, a seven- or eight-seed playoff team.
Those days are over. Really, they never should have taken place. The Lakers should have never shelled out nine figures' worth of payroll for a seventh-place finish and a first-round sweep at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs this past season, and they sure as day shouldn't do so now, when they're not even built to win.
Sans World Peace, next year is going to sting. Failing to contend for a championship always does. But it was going to hurt even more understanding the Lakers knowingly make a mediocre endeavor a lucratively expensive one.
They had the ability to lessen their financial burden, to ensure they didn't add any more financial insult to injury. They had a chance to restore some balance to the quality of their team, and the amount their paying for it.
And they took it.
With all eyes fixated on the summer of 2014, they had to seize the opportunity in front of them by amnestying World Peace, however bittersweet it was.
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