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Lakers ran a great pickup game to get Steve Nash and Jordan Hill

Three trades designed to reduce payroll and luxury taxes wound up paving the way for Lakers to acquire several key players, including future Hall of Famer Nash.

October 16, 2012|Ben Bolch
  • Steve Nash was acquired after three trades were made, designed to reduce payroll and luxury taxes.
Steve Nash was acquired after three trades were made, designed to reduce… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )

Salary dumps are designed to save teams money while shedding extraneous players.

They don't normally help them land a Hall of Famer.

Salary dumps allow teams to rid themselves of aging veterans.

They don't usually help them find up-and-comers they are eager to bring back.

Salary dumps let teams unload players with questionable pasts.

They don't inevitably result in the acquisition of ones with promising futures.

Being frugal has rarely been as lucrative as it has recently for the Lakers, who have parlayed a series of trades largely intended to reduce payroll into the arrival of Steve Nash and blossoming reserves Jordan Hill, Robert Sacre and Darius Morris.

Lakers fans can send their regards to Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher and Sasha Vujacic, who were sent packing along with their bloated contracts, ultimately making room for the newcomers.

Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said Monday that financial concerns are becoming an increasingly important factor in every trade his team makes as it approaches more punitive luxury taxes set to arrive in the 2013-14 season.

"Maybe it's more of a concern for us than it is for a lot of other teams right now," Kupchak said, alluding to the Lakers' status as taxpayers because they exceed the luxury tax threshold.

The Lakers could soon be counting victories as well as dollars as a result of what are looking like increasingly shrewd moves.

They acquired Nash through the trade exception they acquired when they sent Odom to Dallas in December. The Odom deal had a dual function, allowing the Lakers to save $17.9 million in salary and luxury taxes for the 2011-12 season while unloading a player who had become disgruntled in the wake of the team's failed attempt to include him in a previous trade for Chris Paul.

"We weren't going to do something just to do something in terms of taking back something that maybe we didn't want," Kupchak said. "But our feeling was, if we can create an exception and get a [draft] pick that would give us the flexibility that we needed going forward [then we would make the trade], and Dallas stepped up."

The Phoenix Suns dangled Nash eight months later after he asked to be traded, and the Lakers picked up one of the top point guards in NBA history for a bevy of draft picks.

The 6-foot-10 Hill, a top reserve, came courtesy of a March trade with Houston in which the Lakers dumped Fisher and the one year remaining on his contract for $3.4 million, the veteran point guard having become expendable after they acquired Ramon Sessions.

The Lakers used those savings to help offset the cost of re-signing Hill for two years and about $7 million after the power forward put together a productive late-season stretch that included three double-doubles in six games.

"Our coach gave him a shot in the Oklahoma City game here in L.A.," Kupchak said, referring to Mike Brown, "and the kid was great, so he earned a spot in the rotation. He gave us enough to pursue him this summer and sign him back."

Sacre, a 7-foot rookie who appears on the verge of earning playing time, came as the result of a December 2010 trade involving Vujacic, the sharpshooter who had fallen out of the rotation.

"He was highly compensated, we needed a big player and he wasn't playing," Kupchak said of Vujacic. "It's as simple as that."

Though Joe Smith, the forward the Lakers received in the trade, didn't pan out, the team saved about $8 million in salary and luxury taxes as part of the deal and landed a pair of second-round draft picks they eventually used on Morris and Sacre.

"The kid is playing well, it looks like he has a chance to make our team," Kupchak said of Sacre, "so maybe in a year or two we'll look back on it and say it was good. But I think it's too early right now."

Kupchak largely pooh-poohed the Lakers' savings as a result of their recent deals, pointing out that they signed Nash to a three-year contract for about $27 million and retained a massive payroll of roughly $100 million.

There's also the matter of their ledger in the NBA standings.

"We haven't played a game yet," Kupchak said, "so we'll have to look back on it a year from now and say, 'Hey, those were great [moves],' or 'it wasn't as great as we thought.' But certainly we like what we've done."

Backcourt logjam

Do the Lakers really need four point guards?

They have reserves Steve Blake, Chris Duhon and Morris in addition to Nash, enough manpower to nearly outfit the entire Pacific Division.

Kupchak said he was not actively trying to trade one of the backups.

"This time of year, teams are not looking to make deals," Kupchak said. "They're evaluating their team and if anything they're going to cut players as they go into the season."

Kupchak conceded the situation could eventually become untenable.

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