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James Ennis is publicly lobbying for a spot on the Lakers, and they’re running out of excuses not to sign him

James Ennis III worked out for the Los Angeles Lakers this offseason. He has that in widespread with a lot of different well-known gamers, who, like him, will not be at the moment members of the Los Angeles Lakers. Isaiah Thomas got here in, labored out and left. So did Darren Collison and Mike James and, in all chance, a lot of different veterans whose auditions went unreported. It is customary offseason apply. Most of those exercises do not result in job provides. Gamers sometimes transfer on and await one other alternative. 

However give Ennis credit score: He’s persistent. Or maybe a tad stalker-ish. The Ventura California native is not going to depart the Lakers alone this offseason. In August, he appreciated a lot of tweets suggesting that he would land with the Lakers. Now, 4 video games right into a winless preseason during which the Lakers have allowed a mean of 121 factors per recreation, Ennis has taken issues a step additional by publicly asking for a contract. Whereas he didn’t technically specify which workforce (if any) he was talking to, that it got here on the finish of a Lakers recreation makes his supposed viewers clear.

Ennis reportedly drew curiosity from a lot of groups earlier this offseason, however has remained unsigned. We will not say for sure why that it’s, although as a viable two-way ahead, it is probably that if his solely purpose was to be on a roster to begin the season, he might have achieved that by now. It won’t be Lakers or bust, however he has each proper to be choosy. He is without doubt one of the few accessible gamers genuinely able to serving to a workforce pretty much as good because the Lakers.

Whereas any participant accessible at this stage of the offseason goes to come back with flaws, the 31-year-old ahead is a superbly viable wing defender that shot over 43 p.c from behind the arc final season and has hovered round league-average on low quantity for his profession. He is performed the previous a number of seasons on minimal contracts resulting from his inconsistent capturing and restricted on-ball offensive upside, however he’s with out query an NBA-caliber participant at a place that’s terribly skinny league-wide. 

It is even thinner for the Lakers. Whereas they may have been comfy brushing Ennis apart in favor of the gamers they signed earlier this offseason in August, their circumstances have grown considerably precarious in latest weeks. With eight of the 14 roster spots devoted to guards, the Lakers entered coaching camp with solely 4 forwards on assured contracts. Two of these forwards are LeBron James, who features as a degree guard offensively, and Anthony Davis, who, in an ideal world, goes to spend most of his time at middle. That left Carmelo Anthony and Trevor Ariza because the workforce’s solely true forwards, and now, Ariza goes to miss eight weeks with an ankle damage. Lest you imagine that the Lakers can lean extra closely on their guards because the season opens, do not forget that Malik Monk is coping with a strained proper groin whereas Talen Horton-Tucker has a sprained proper thumb. Throw in DeAndre Jordan’s underwhelming play within the preseason and Russell Westbrook’s gradual begin and you’ve got a roster in a considerably important state of flux earlier than the season has even begun.

The Lakers do not want Ennis or anybody else to come back in and play 40 minutes an evening. They won’t even want somebody to final all the season. They only want one other physique on the ahead place to get them by this early string of accidents. Ennis could or is probably not the best choice, however in basketball phrases, there is no purpose for the Lakers to not discover any choice. They’ve solely 14 gamers on customary NBA contracts proper now. That leaves an empty roster spot accessible for Ennis or one other ahead to fill. The Lakers do not should waive any assured contracts to signal one.

But they have not, and the one actual rationalization for why they have not is monetary. At current, the Lakers have greater than $155 million dedicated in participant salaries this season (together with the useless cash owed to Luol Deng), according to Spotrac. That has left them with a hefty $40.7 million tax invoice. The Lakers can solely signal Ennis for the minimal, and a superb chunk of his contract can be coated by the league. As a seven-year veteran, Ennis’ minimal is over $2.2 million, however when groups signal older gamers for the minimal, they solely should pay these gamers the second-year minimal quantity of round $1.7 million. The league covers the remaining in order to not discourage groups from signing older gamers. Nonetheless, that $1.7 million price ticket looms massive for the Lakers due to the tax implications. In whole, it might price the Lakers one other $5.6 million or so in taxes along with that $1.7 million wage.

There are methods to melt that hit barely. The Lakers might signal Ennis to a non-guaranteed deal after which waive or commerce him halfway by the season to avoid wasting money, for example. However it has develop into clear that funds are a critical consideration for them as they fill out the again finish of their roster. Whether or not or not they may have satisfied Marc Gasol to remain for one more yr is unknowable at this stage, however it must be famous that buying and selling him and signing DeAndre Jordan in his place saved cash towards the tax. Gasol’s minimal contract didn’t embrace these financial savings from the league as a result of it lasted a number of seasons. The 14th roster spot went to undrafted rookie Austin Reaves, whose $925,000 minimal wage is just round 55 p.c of the two-year veteran’s minimal. 

Sure, the Lakers would possibly need to maintain their fifteenth slot open to facilitate a buyout market addition, however it’s not as if they could not commerce or launch a participant in the course of the season to clear the roster house for such a participant. The one actual distinction there may be monetary. When a workforce indicators a participant in the course of the season, his wage and accompanying tax hit are prorated primarily based on when he indicators. Ready till the deadline so as to add a fifteenth participant is cheaper than signing one early on. Whereas high basketball government Rob Pelinka has claimed that profitable a championship is the final word purpose, he himself has even hinted at a few of these constraints when discussing the workforce’s strikes.

“Jeanie [Buss] and the possession group has empowered the entrance workplace to do one factor and that is to neatly construct a roster to win championships,” Pelinka said in June. “That is been the hallmark of this workforce since Dr. Buss acquired it, and continues to be right now. Clearly all 30 NBA Teams are confined by a wage cap, so we have to be good about how we put all of the puzzle items collectively, however there is just one purpose, and it is doing it neatly to have a championship-caliber workforce.”

The Lakers would possibly need to spend neatly to win the championship, however their rivals have been a bit extra reckless this offseason. The Lakers are nonetheless under $200 million in mixed wage and tax funds. The Warriors are paying over $360 million, and the Nets aren’t far behind. They had been above $300 million earlier than buying and selling Jordan and are nonetheless on monitor to pay over $280 million in mixed salaries and taxes. Proper now, the Lakers are primarily spending precisely as a lot because the small-market Bucks. Their Staples Middle co-tenant, the Clippers, are on monitor to spend roughly $250 million on their gamers this season. 

It might be unfair to name the Lakers low-cost. They’ve three superstars making market worth and are round $20 million above the tax line. They paid the tax final season as nicely and did so ceaselessly throughout Kobe Bryant’s profession. However even when their possession group does not have fairly as a lot money as Joe Lacob or Steve Ballmer, they’ve entry to income streams different groups can solely dream of. Their gargantuan native tv deal alone offers them an unlimited monetary benefit over the competitors. They do not should spend the historic quantities Golden State and Brooklyn are dropping of their championship pursuits. They may even be excused for drawing the road in negotiations with fan-favorite gamers like Alex Caruso to keep away from exorbitant tax funds. However in-season signings and damage replacements are simply the price of doing enterprise within the trendy NBA. If the Lakers are unwilling to incur these prices, they’ll outsmart themselves out of the title image.



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