Shaq sets own market value

Updated: June 1, 2004, 3:17 PM ET
By Terry Brown | NBA Insider
The bidding for Shaquille O'Neal, if we are to believe the latest reports, begins at $30 million per season.

Do I hear $31?

"I'm sure Shaq's agent knows that whether Shaq signs at full price or at a discount, it does not affect the Lakers' ability to sign other players," NBA salary-cap specialist Larry Coon said. "No matter what amount they pay him, the Lakers are going to be over the cap, and will have to rely on salary-cap exceptions to sign other players. However, the luxury tax becomes a big concern. At some point, the question becomes, how much Jerry Buss can afford to spend on payroll?"

As ludicrous as these numbers may sound to you and me and the next guy waiting to make the balloon payment on his second mortgage, let's make it even more absurd by stating that the bidding cannot even begin for two more seasons when his contract completes and, at this asking price, there is only one qualified bidder.

"He'll be making about $30 million dollars at the end of his contract," Coon said. "So a team can pay him up to 105 percent of that amount provided they have the cap space."

And considering that the cap is at $43.8 million this year, how many teams do you really think are out there that have only $12.3 million in salary?

You're right. The answer is none.

But before we get too far with the Los Angeles Lakers monopoly, let's put a little more emphasis on Mr. Coon's point.

As just mentioned, the cap this year was at $43.5 million. The Lakers' payroll for this season is at $65.5 million. Even without Shaq on the books, the team is at $39 million, giving the Lakers all of $4.8 million in cap space.

That's it. Enough to sign someone like Michael Olowokandi or two Joel Przybillas or three Jake Tsakalidases.

Cut Shaq's current salary of $26.5 million in half and the Lakers are still $8.4 million over the cap.

Cut his salary by 75 percent, paying the big guy $6.6 million, and the Lakers are still $1.8 million over the cap.

Cut his salary by 90 percent, to $2.6 million, and you've now created $2.2 million in cap space and pissed off one heckuva big fella for the opportunity of signing the likes of DeSagana Diop.

In other words, any reasonable pay cut for Shaquille O'Neal is not going to affect the Lakers' ability to attract future free agents because the Lakers can still only pay them mid-level exceptions because they will still be over the cap.

Shaq knows this.

His agent knows this.

Laker owner Jerry Buss knows this as well, but is hoping inaccurate articles in the local and national press put enough public opinion pressure on Shaq to take a pay cut.


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