The $15 million man

The Lakers took the day off Monday, their first of the season. A couple of players went in for treatment but there was no change in anyone’s injury status, according to a team spokesman. The Lakers will hold an open practice Tuesday for their season-ticket holders at Staples Center.

Here’s a story for Tuesday about Brian Grant, everyone’s favorite Laker. He’s making more than Lamar Odom this season in the final year of a monster contract. It’s remarkable that the Lakers are as competitive as they are when you consider that more than a quarter of their cap money is tied up in Grant.

The Lakers still have to pay Grant but at least were able to lessen the luxury-tax blow by waiving him two summers ago. It’s questionable if they would have been able to sign a player like Vladimir Radmanovic without making that move.

Grant’s cap number this season comes to about $14.9 million. He was owed $15.439 million by the Lakers for this season. The Lakers are entitled to offset some of his salary based on the contract Grant signed with Phoenix before last season.

Grant is due to make $1.8 million this season, which is subtracted from the league minimum of $664,209 for a second-year player and divded by two for the Lakers’ calculations. That would give the Lakers back about $567,000. If there are any amateur salary-cap experts, please let me know if I’m wrong.

By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

If the NBA had not given teams the opportunity back in August 2005 to shed the contract of a player for luxury-tax purposes, veteran forward Brian Grant more than likely would be a member of the Lakers today.

Instead, Grant is collecting the second-biggest paycheck on the team after Kobe Bryant even though he hasnt played for the Lakers since the 2004-05 season and isnt even in an NBA training camp this month.

To understand the $15 million hole in the Lakers payroll, you have to go back to the Shaquille ONeal trade. With ONeal due to make more than $27 million, the Lakers had to take back a big contract to make the deal work under league salary cap rules.

The Lakers were able to get Lamar Odom and Caron Butler, two promising young players, from Miami but were left to take Grant and the $43 million he was owed over three years.

“It really came down to Brian, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said. “He was a big man and we had to take somebody. If this (luxury-tax) amnesty rule didnt exist, Brian would still be on our team.

Grant came to the Lakers having long battled tendinitis in his knees but also having missed just 16 games in his four seasons as a full-time starter with the Heat.

But Grant struggled with a neck injury during training camp, then spent 13 games on the injured list with tendinitis. He played in 69 games his only season with the Lakers and averaged a career-low 3.8 points and 3.7 rebounds.

Then the NBA allowed teams the one-time opportunity to release a player for luxury-tax relief as part of its new collective bargaining agreement. The Lakers would have to pay Grants salary but could avoid the dollar-for-dollar luxury-tax penalty on it.

In Grants case, the Lakers stood to save nearly $30 million. The decision to waive Grant was “the prudent thing to do, as Kupchak put it.

The Lakers are not alone in paying big money to a player no longer on their roster. New York still owes the retired Allan Houston $20 million this season while Dallas will be paying Michael Finley, a luxury-tax casualty, $35 million over the next two seasons.

Kupchak said Grants contract has no effect on the Lakers in terms of their salary-cap or luxury-tax flexibility. Even with Grants deal expiring after this season, the Lakers will be still be above the salary cap with what they owe current players.

“It doesnt hinder our ability to do anything, Kupchak said.

The Lakers have about $54 million committed to players for next season, not including free agents such as Luke Walton, Chris Mihm and Smush Parker. They will be limited in the signings and trades they can do by already being over the salary cap.

However, the Lakers will have more room under the luxury-tax threshold, which was $65.42 million this season.

Grant, meanwhile, signed a two-year deal with Phoenix after he was waived by the Lakers and underwent knee surgery in December. He played in only 21 games and was traded to Boston on draft night with the rights to rookie guard Rajon Rondo.

The Celtics have kept the 34-year-old Grant on the roster but ruled out that he will ever play a game for them. They will look to trade him or could release him to make room on the roster before the start of the season.

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