Note of caution to anyone making the weekend trip to Vegas to watch the Lakers summer league team: don’t expect Julius Randle. Instead brace yourself for the reality of Julius in street clothes. By the time the ball tips on Friday against the Toronto Raptors, Julius Randle’s contract may not be signed and it has nothing to do with Julius himself, nor his foot nor his willingness to begin his NBA career. Simply, it is one of those Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) specifications for teams like the Lakers trying to sign a maximum salary player. They have to sign the max player first. Then the rookie.
This is why. A first round pick at the #7 draft slot is guaranteed a salary of $2.4 million at the low end and $2.9 million at the high end, according to Larry Coon, ESPN’s salary cap expert. Most lottery picks sign for the maximum amount. However if the Lakers signed Julius Randle tomorrow that would leave the Lakers $500,000 dollars less to operate with as they try to achieve two objectives: improve by signing a max salary player and prepare Julius Randle for summer basketball.
These are the unintended consequences of a salary cap. It’s capitalism at its best, the 1% dictating the terms for everyone else. Of course it is not fair that Julius Randle has to wait until Carmelo Anthony and Lebron James make up their minds and decide where they are going to play in 2014-15. But let’s not kid ourselves, Julius Randle will be signed. He will play for the Lakers in the summer league. But for now there is not much he can do but stand by and wait. Welcome to the NBA, kid!
Lost in all of the chatter and excitement and even resignation of a Carmelo acquisition is the cold dash of water: it may be a moot point, all of this waiting for something that may not even happen. It is conceivable and very logical that Carmelo chooses the Chicago Bulls. They are a ready made team one player away from being a serious contender; that one player is Carmelo. Or Carmelo may not be able to fight the lure of an extra year and the pull of staying in New York and he might just take the easy way out and sign up for a second tour of grudge work with the Knicks.
Or a stunning change of events could happen: Carmelo could shake up the NBA by defying the experts who all predicted the Lakers had no shot at the star. By all accounts the Lakers did the opposite of last year which ended in an epic failure and Dwight Howard bolting to Houston. Then, their spiel to Dwight centered on the grandeur of the past as if they were some faded film star suddenly given a chance at a premiere role. This time history was shelved. Instead they tailored their pitch to Carmelo the person, Carmelo the husband, Carmelo the father, Carmelo the basketball player, Carmelo the star.
Yes he is leaving money on the table but the Lakers reward their superstars; you can trust them. Somewhere down the line Carmelo will get an extension. The Lakers would not let him die on the vine, they would pay him and pay him well.
Their sales job, one they toiled over in the preparation stages, worked well enough that Carmelo is considering a team that only has 3 players on the roster.
While in Vegas, Julius Randle is considering when he can suit up for a game. As tough as it is for him to wait for the process to take care of itself he is not the only one. Lance Stephenson, Trevor Ariza, Isaiah Thomas, Eric Bledsoe, Evan Turner, Greg Monroe are waiting for Carmelo and Lebron to make up their minds too. In a curious, circuitous way that is reflective of the star system of the NBA, everyone is waiting for two men to make up their minds.