In yesterday’s Bullets, Henry Abbott noted the following:
If the Mavericks are really being stingy with Tyson Chandler I suppose that could be taken as a sign the new CBA is having some effect. The Mavericks are like the Knicks and Lakers in how they have spent, historically, but they are not at all like those teams in how they earn, and have lost mighty amounts of money as a result. A stiff luxury tax could, in theory, hurt Cuban more than anyone — as he’s one of the owners already feeling the most financial pain.
It’s true — Dallas has historically been a big-spending team, but without the revenue streams that make franchises like the Lakers and Knicks so insanely profitable. Mark Cuban is likely to be one of the first influenced by the new luxury tax as a result, and we may see the implications of that deterrence sooner rather than later.
But if the Mavericks fail to re-sign Tyson Chandler this summer, it will have little to do with the tax or the new collective bargaining agreement. The Mavericks will likely pay the luxury tax this season, but at a dollar-for-dollar rate with a lower overall payroll than last season (largely due to Caron Butler’s salary being off the books), Cuban would get a bit of a financial break relative to his team’s title campaign even if he and Donnie Nelson chose to keep Chandler around. The Mavs’ defensive centerpiece could be had for a sizable financial investment and only a par-for-the-course luxury tax penalty, if only Cuban willed it so.
For history’s sake alone, that’s worth remembering. Cuban isn’t handcuffed by the CBA, or beaten down by the luxury tax. He’s merely sacrificing one asset for another potential asset in the hopes of easing the transition between eras of Maverick basketball. Whatever the result, the framing of this situation is important. There is a choice between dice rolls here — one for a repeat title run and one for 2012 free agency — and if the situation is as concrete as the various reports will have us believe, that choice has already been made.
The decision to let Chandler walk is part of a greater design crafted with next summer in mind. The Mavs fancy themselves players in the 2012 free agent market (or more specifically, players in the Deron Williams sweepstakes), when they’ll attempt to make a completely different sizable financial investment for a completely different player. Cuban’s spending will likely be curtailed at some point, but his reluctance to sign contracts in the short term would appear traceable to the Mavs’ 2012 cap picture and little more.