Mitch Kupchak’s coupon book filled with hometown discounts is about to expire at 9:01pm pacific time tonight.
Free agent to be Trevor Ariza, a Los Angeles native, is not going to give his boyhood team a cut rate price for his services or at least his agent, David Lee, isn’t.
According to various outlets, including Slam Online, Lee has stated that his client is not going to drop his asking price despite Ariza’s desire to remain a Laker.
The former Westchester High grad and UCLA Bruin wants nothing more than to continue wearing purple and gold. However, his clutch play in the postseason has raised his stock and he’s expected to at least double his $3.1 million salary from ’08-09.
If there are two things working against Kupchak in negotiations they would be 1) Lee also represents Andrew Bynum and GM Mitch was more than willing to commit $57 million to a young and unproven center. Now he’s painted himself into a corner with a proven commodity in Trevor Ariza. 2) It is going to be difficult to explain to Trevor why Sasha Vujacic is making almost double his salary. Ariza did more in the third quarter of a dramatic game 4 win in Orlando than the Machine did in all five NBA Finals games he appeared in.
Kupchak sold off two of the Lakers three draft picks last week to raise $6 million for just such an occasion. Of course the onus is still on Jerry Buss. Dr. Buss must be willing to pay the luxury tax required to retain the services of both Ariza and Lamar Odom.
Odom has already stated that he’s willing to take a pay cut from his $14 million paycheck he collected last year. Lamar has very little leverage though as most veteran free agents are expected to earn less this coming year.
To complicate things even more, Phil Jackson has expressed his desire to keep Shannon Brown in the fold as well. Brown earned just $796,000 last year so he’ll be due a very hefty raise and it would seem unlikely that the Lakers will match any offers the athletic combo guard is sure to receive. (See Ronny Turiaf as exhibit A for this situation)
In a perfect world, Sasha would void his contract to play with Ricky Rubio in Turkey next year forming the “all hype and hair” backcourt in Europe while Ariza, Odom and Brown all remain in Los Angeles. Should Ariza accept the large offer he’s expected to receive from Detroit or Orlando, the Lakers could look to veteran point guards Mike Bibby or Jason Kidd to fill out their backcourt.
After surviving the NBA as a second round pick of the New York Knicks, Trevor has more than earned his payday. Just don’t expect him to take anything less what he’s owed even if it means turning his back on the city he’s rooted in.