Ted Green: Lakers need to put up the money
The Lakers and the luxury tax seem about as comfortable together in the same sentence as Barack Obama and Sarah Palin.
I bring it up because the Lakers seem to be playing the luxury tax card as they talk vaguely about what they can and cannot afford to pay their free-agent forward, Lamar Odom.
The versatile Odom made about $14 million in 2009. Now there are hints about offering him the mid-level exception of $5-plus million, something like a 60% pay cut.
You want to cut somebody? Ask Andrew Bynum to give some of that 52 mil back.
Now, it's not my place to spend Jerry Buss' money. If he wants to blow some of it on poker, 21 being a great number for both blackjack and girlfriends, that's his business. But riddle me this:
If the Cleveland Cavaliers can pay THEIR power forward, the klunky Anderson Varejao, $50 million and he's about a quarter as good as Lamar Odom, are the Lakers telling us they can't pay a talent like Odom $8 to $10 million?
And if the Cavaliers -- remember, the market is Cleveland -- can live with being $14 million over the cap, which they are today, why are the Lakers crying poor about being $12 million over?
Twelve million dollars? Isn't that what it costs to park at Staples? Doesn't $12 million represent about 20 games' worth of profit from those yummy chicken burritos they jack you for at about $8 bucks a pop there?
Oh, and before we even get into how much the Lakers franchise is worth, the Dallas Mavericks are $26 million over the cap.
Mark Cuban spending to win while Jerry Buss cuts corners? Say it ain't so.
Now, the Lakers have been pretty clever in selling us on the cap. But if it's a snow job, does that make it like the candy, Sno-Caps? Lessons in capology are coming out of Mitch Kupchak's office every day. Lakers beat writers then dutifully carry the message to the public without investigating the profit side of the ledger, so we don't get a balanced story where Lakers finances are concerned.
Right now the cap propaganda is getting so thick, I'm starting to think Kupchak has moved his office to the Kremlin.
Jerry Buss bought the Lakers (and hockey's Kings, the Forum and a ranch in Bakersfield) for $38 million. Today most major financial publications estimate the Lakers' worth at between $650 million and $900 million!
I believe this is known as a substantial profit. Wait, I mean windfall.
And boo hoo, they're crying about a few mil in cap money?
I've known the good doctor Buss for 35 years and never once in all that time has he ever acted like Charlie Cheapskate. So in that context this Odom business, hardballing such a key championship ingredient, does surprise and disappoint me.
The Lakers don't sell cheap. They usually leave that to the team down the hall.
When you're on the cusp of starting another run of championships, with two, three or even four in a row feasible, this is no time to channel Donald Sterling.
While you're basking in the glow of the '09 title, look around, Dr. Busschak. The Cavs got Shaq, the Celtics got 'Sheed, the Spurs got Richard Jefferson and the Blazers are on the brink of getting Paul Millsap.
This is not the time for the Lakers to penny-pinch and get left at the starting gate.
Cry about the cap? What's next, passing the hat?
Besides, Odom's been a good soldier. Occasionally, a great one, a three-star general.
Ask Lamar to start, he starts. Ask him to be sixth man, he's sixth man. Ask him to bail out Andrew Bynum every time the kid is called for two fouls before he gets off the bus, which was just about every game in the playoffs, he bails out Bynum. Ask him to help you win a championship, you win a championship.
So don't diss Odom, either. Show him the respect and appreciation he's earned. Just because the market's turned in the Lakers' favor is no excuse to take undue advantage of it.
Ten mil a year for Lamar? A little too much. The market has changed. Money's tighter. Lamar's gonna have to live with it; it's a fact of life.
But if you've given Ron Artest about $6.9 mil per when he has no history with the Lakers, other than getting in Kobe's grill from the enemy side, then give Lamar at least the same annually. Or a little more because he's been there for you.
Say 8 per ... $16 million for two years and call it a deal.
Dr. Busschak, nothing less than your reputation for doing the big, important things right and stylishly rests on it.
Only that and winning the championship again next season.
-- Ted Green
Green formerly covered the Lakers for the L.A. Times. He is currently senior sports producer for KTLA Prime News.
Photo: Lakers forward Lamar Odom. Credit: Jae C. Hong / Associated Press