The long-running fantasy brewing in David Stern’s head always involved the Lakers playing the Lakers in the NBA Finals.
The reasons for the NBA Commissioner remained obvious. Their championship pedigree, superstar personalities and close relationship with the Hollywood scene out here brought incredible ratings for the league. Plenty of Laker fans have openly wondered about Stern’s intentions toward the Lakers, what with the nixed Chris Paul deal and the recent labor day that calls for more revenue sharing and more penalties for high-spending teams.
But Stern hardly shares the pessimism expressed by many that the Lakers’ championship fortunes will become a distant memory.
“I expect that the Lakers aren’t thinking about the premise of your question, which implies on that they’re not going to do better next year than they did the last year,” Stern said during a meeting with reporters Thursday at the Wynn hotel in Las Vegas. “I don’t want to speculate beyond that, but I can tell you that’s not the basis upon which the Lakers are functioning. They expect to have a much better year.”
The Lakers are only three months removed from a first-round flameout to the San Antonio Spurs. Dwight Howard just departed to the Houston Rockets. The Lakers made solid moves acquiring veteran center Chris Kaman for one at the mini mid-level exception ($3.2 million), while adding young talent in Nick Young, Jordan Farmar and Wesley Johnson for one year to veteran’s minimum deals.
But the Lakers showed one clear signal their further unwillingness to absorb the harsh luxury taxes that they have done in past seasons. Despite the Lakers need to have a defensive presence, they waived Metta World Peace through the amnesty provision. The move could save the Lakers about $15 million in luxury taxes, but doesn’t give them any added flexibility in upgrading their roster. World Peace then signed a two-year deal, including a player option, to join the New York Knicks.
“Amnesty is reflective in the fact that teams are not only eliminating the tax payment due with particular contracts, but they’re also keeping from going into even a higher bracket by those contracts being in place to get with other contract that’s they might sign,” Stern said. “With respect to the L.A. market, whenever somebody wins, somebody loses. It’s a fact here. We’ve had the Knicks down for a while, the Bulls down for a while, the Lakers were down this past year. But that is the beauty of what we do. All of our teams today are undefeated, and they’re all plotting to improve their lot, thinking they’re getting a lot better.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org