The NBA is baaaaack!

And we finally have an NBA season. Thank God. You can only watch so much NBL, and whilst I love the Sydney Kings, nothing beats the thrill and excitement of the Lakers. And it all starts on Xmas day with the Lakers taking on the Bulls.

It’s going to be an interesting year for the Lakers. Some experts are saying the Lakers can make one last gasp run whilst Kobe is still in his prime, whilst others are saying that the Lakers need to plan for the future with the changes to the luxury tax only 2 years away and a huge tax bill looming.

If $70 million is the cap before luxury taxes hit, GM Mitch Kupchak has a lot of work to do in managing the Laker’s payroll and attract quality players over the next few years. Check out HoopsHype.com for a breakdown of the Laker’s salary situation. At $91 million for the 2011-12 season, that’s about $20 million in taxes that Lakers are up for this year – and that’s with no new rookies or free agents signed. When the new luxury tax scale comes in for 2013-14, the tax bill gets hefty. According to Larry Coon:

“the Lakers’ tax bill in 2011 (when the tax was dollar-for-dollar) was about $19.9 million. Under the new system, being that far over the tax line would cost them $44.68 million. If they were a repeat offender (paying tax at least four of the previous five years) they would owe $64.58 million!”

That’s a LOT of tax to be paying! But with the Lakers new local TV deal with TNT, starting in 2012-13, worth $200 million a year ($5 billion over 25 years), maybe the Buss family won’t be too worried about the tax.

The biggest elephant in the room as we start the 2011-12 season is what happens with Dwight Howard. Will he command a trade to the bright lights and big city of LA, following in the steps of Shaquille O’Neal15 years ago? Regardless of what team he wants to be traded to, a trade is bound to happen. As Chris Sheridan of SheridanHoops.com points out, there are $30 million reasons why Howard will be pushing for it to happen sooner rather than later!

Now wouldn’t it be good if this came true? =)

The Lakers would be set for the future and continue on their tradition of dominating Centers. No doubt they would have to give up a lot to get Howard including some combination of Bynum/Odom/Gasol plus maybe even take back a bad contract like Turkoglu. Short term pain but you have someone that can play with Kobe and carry the torch when Kobe leaves the game. Whatever happens, it makes for some exciting viewing over the next few months! NBA…Where Amazing Happens…

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