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He thinks the Lakers are crying poor

December 9, 2008 |  8:15 pm

A confession up front: I don't know any more about the Lakers' actual finances than you do. Which is to say, nothing at all.

But when I read stories in relation to, say, whether the Lakers should or will re-sign an emerging and valuable asset like Trevor Ariza, and the Lakers use having to pay the luxury tax as a potential excuse in case they need it, I don't know whether to laugh or lose my lunch.

Jerry Buss got a star on the Walk of Fame in 2006. See, I was there in '78 when Jerry Buss bought the whole shooting match from Jack Kent Cooke -- that's the Lakers, hockey Kings and the Fabulous Forum (the building in Inglewood, and here a picture of both the man and the building (here's a photo) for $38 million, chump change by today's standards. The Steal of the Century.

Today, even in this last-place economy, Forbes estimates the Lakers are worth about $600 million. If Hollywood's team ever went up for sale on the open market, I bet they'd fetch more.

So, if Jerry Buss bought the team for $38 mil, AND it's now worth $600 mil, AND the team is currently profitable, AND the other Laker owner, Philip Anschutz, is said to be worth $8 billion (yes, the "B" word) ... someone please explain, why in the name of Jack Benny would the Lakers ever, and I mean ever, use the luxury tax as an excuse, much less cry about it in the papers?

Luxury tax? For the Lakers?

Luxury tax for a team whose sushi roll at Staples Center costs the same as a four-door KIA with leather seats?

In the big financial Laker picture, the luxury tax for Ariza is comparative pennies.

Did George Steinbrenner ever once choose the cheapskate route for the Yankees, baseball's gold standard?

So why would the Lakers' front office ever cry poor, especially when Buss has Daddy Warbucks Anschutz as a partner?

I'm not trying to fritter away John, Jim and Jeanie's family fortune, nor am I telling the Lakers how to spend it. That said, I'm pretty sure the words "Lakers" and "luxury tax" should never be used in the same sentence.

You are the Lakers, not the Atlanta Hawks.

You have enough money to buy LeBron James, Dwight Howard and Yao Ming as your third-string center.

Luxury tax and the Lakers?

Reminds me of other famous oxymorons, like Iraq and Mission Accomplished.

-- Ted Green

Ted Green was the L.A. Times beat writer when Jerry Buss bought the Lakers. He is currently Senior Sports Producer for KTLA Prime News.

Inset photo: Jerry Buss got a star on the Walk of Fame in 2006. Credit: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times
Pop-up photo: Jack Kent Cooke at the 1966 groundbreaking for the Forum. Credit: AP