The Los Angeles Lakers would obviously prefer to have LeBron James on the floor on Tuesday when they travel to Madison Square Garden to take on the New York Knicks, but his suspension takes matters out of their hands. James will miss that game after hitting Detroit Pistons center Isaiah Stewart in the face on Sunday, and while his suspension will put the Lakers at a disadvantage, there is one silver lining for them. His absence will save the Lakers a fairly significant chunk of change.
The suspension itself will cost James $284,004, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks. That alone is fairly significant, but it gets better for Los Angeles. They will be awarded a luxury tax credit of $142,002, half of that money, which ultimately projects to save them $532,508 in total. Why so much? Because the luxury tax is not dollar-for-dollar. The tax goes up the deeper a team delves into it, and the Lakers, with a payroll of nearly $157 million, are far above the line. That means that savings of any kind are amplified.
Lakers fans obviously don’t care if the Buss family saves money, but such savings are meaningful considering how the Lakers built their roster. This is a team with 10 players making minimum salaries. They chose not to re-sign Alex Caruso at a discount largely because of the luxury tax costs. This is not a team that is willing to spend recklessly. Savings matter to this front office.
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They might even come in handy at the trade deadline or on the buyout market when adding talent would certainly carry an enormous financial cost, though, for the time being, there is little evidence suggesting that the Lakers plan to be aggressive in upgrading their roster. Ultimately, this suspension is unlikely to have a meaningful on-court impact for the Lakers beyond the Knicks game, but the luxury tax has been a thorn in their side this season, and saving a bit of money against it can’t hurt.