Stern: 'It's not about market size it's about management (re: Spurs)" M A year ago,
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A year ago, the NBA wiped away its opening two months in the name of fixing a broken system, then saved a shortened season by compromising on owners' demands for a hard salary cap and franchise-player tag.
Team owners in cities beyond New York, Chicago and Los Angeles had sought both in an attempt to level the field in a league where superstars flock to its biggest -- or at least warmer -- markets.
Instead, they took the money -- a 50-50 split of the pie with the players and significantly increased revenue-sharing among teams -- over a better chance at parity.
So far this season, Oklahoma City traded away James Harden and Memphis dealt away Rudy Gay in moves made mostly, if not entirely, because of money.
Each trade arrived before an increasingly punitive luxury tax kicks in next season, Year 3 of the new labor deal.
Both trades are pertinent for a Timberwolves team that has signed Kevin Love to a maximum-sized salary and still must find room to re-sign Nikola Pekovic and Ricky Rubio when their original rookie contracts expire.
The Thunder made room for big stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook but elected not to keep Harden. The Grizzlies signed Gay to a max deal in 2011 but traded him for three players so they could keep well-paid Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley rather than pay a stiff luxury tax.
NBA Commissioner David Stern, in town last week, promises the new, improved revenue sharing and tough tax will allow small-market teams to compete equally.
"It's not about size, it's about revenue," he said. "San Antonio is a small market ... four championships, pretty good. Oklahoma City? Pretty good."
But Stern does so with a big if that could strike dread into Wolves fans' hearts.
"Teams are going to have to manage well to get the best players they can," he said. "They'll have to manage well to hire the best coach, manage well their roster under the cap, manage well with tickets and sponsorships to do the best business they can. Every team has the ability to be competitive and profitable under our current system.
"It's not about market size. It's about management."
Stern noted that big-market teams already have made decisions with the stiffening luxury tax in mind. He mentioned Chicago's decision to not re-sign Omer Asik, Dallas' decision to let Tyson Chandler go to New York and the Knicks' decision not to re-sign Jeremy Lin.
Still, the Lakers -- with a local television contract that pays them an average of $200 million a year for 15 years -- have a $100 million payroll this season while Brooklyn is at $87 million. Oklahoma City is just under the $70 million tax threshold while Memphis has moved well under it by trading away Gay and his $16 million-plus salary.
The Grizzlies lost three of four after they traded away Gay in a three-way deal that brought back Tayshaun Prince, Ed Davis and Austin Daye and followed another trade made with tax purposes in mind.
"I can't quite figure out the Memphis deal yet because I'm listening to some of the basketball guys down there for whom I have respect and they say it's not just about money, you'll see," Stern said. "I tend to stand back and respect the request for time with Memphis because I sat on the sidelines when everyone denounced them for trading a guy named Pau for a guy named Marc Gasol. So we'll see."
But the team owners in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles will always remain dear to his heart. There is life after retirement in the NBA, maybe as a 'consultant'. Let's see if Stern finds it.
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