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Clippers, Lakers to See How New Cap Fits : Pro basketball: Under pending agreement, Clippers appear in better shape, but Lakers should find room soon.

September 13, 1995|SCOTT HOWARD-COOPER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The NBA's pending collective bargaining agreement could create a windfall of as much as $90 million in new player contracts this season, league officials said of the proposed increase in the salary cap to $23 million a team.

In Los Angeles, at the Sports Arena, the six-year deal approved by players is good news.

At the Forum, it's bad news. But only for now.

The Clippers are at $19.35 million in signed contracts, which includes the Brian Williams-Elmore Spencer trade with Denver, agreed to on draft day but not official until the current lockout ends.

They have committed another $350,000 each for Eric Riley and Charles Outlaw by way of qualifying offers. Brent Barry will get between $693,900 and $832,680, numbers set by the new rookie salary cap.

Putting Barry's contract at $800,000 for the sake of argument, that brings the Clippers to $20.85 million--leaving $2.15 million for another trade or free agent.

And they will probably still be under the cap next summer because every key player will be under contract, the only possible exception being Williams, who has four years left on his deal but can terminate it after 1995-96.

Why else is this good for the Clippers?

They would not have been able to make the pending Williams-Spencer trade under the old system because of a salary-cap technicality that will no longer exist. And their biggest slot for another transaction would have been the $1.7-million injury exception for Stanley Roberts. But now they have the $2.15 million.

The Lakers, meanwhile, have practically lost the ability to pursue top free agent Anthony Mason because the attractive $3.2-million slot from Sam Bowie's expected retirement does not exist under the new system. Instead, as a team over the cap, they are left only with a $1-million exception that every club is able to use three times over the six years of the agreement.

That's this summer. A year from now--depending, of course, on what personnel moves are made in the months ahead--the Lakers could be in a great position for free agents when the pickings may be much better.

Officially, they are now at $27.7 million. But if Bowie does not return, that slices $3.2 million. If Tony Smith is not re-signed as a free agent, a good possibility, that cuts $1.05 million more. Take away $150,000 each for Kurt Rambis and Randolph Keys. Theoretically, that puts the Lakers at $23.15 million.

In the summer of '96, they will eliminate $5.15 million when James Worthy comes off the books and will trim $2.4 million more if free agent Sedale Threatt is not retained. The salaries of other players might increase, but the salary cap will also climb, to at least $24.3 million.

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