Sports

Rondo returns to Los Angeles through Salary Cap Magic

The Lakers are going to bring back Rajon Rondo, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the latest example of why the NBA’s salary cap is the only good salary cap in sports.

The reason? It’s just pretend.

The cap for this coming season is $112.414 million, and you can tell immediately that it’s fake because above the cap is the “Tax Level” of $136.606 million.

A team paying the tax becomes eligible for a mid-level exception at a higher dollar figure than a team under the cap, while the biggest mid-level exception comes for teams in between the cap number and the tax number — wait, it finally makes sense now why they call it the mid-level exception.

There are trade exceptions, Bird exceptions, Early Bird exceptions, bi-annual exceptions, rookie exceptions, and then there’s the buyout market has Rondo on his way back to Los Angeles after the Clippers traded him to the Grizzlies and Memphis waived him.

Rondo was never going to play in Memphis, but he needed to be included in the Eric Bledsoe trade to make the cap numbers work — it’s in trades that the NBA’s cap really comes into play, which also makes the fabled ESPN Trade Machine possible and makes trades that much more of an entertaining exercise. The Grizzlies also flipped Patrick Beverley to the Timberwolves, so their return for Bledsoe winds up being Daniel Oturu and Jarrett Culver, two young players with upside, and useful reserve forward Juancho Hernangómez.

Surely, before buying out the final year of Rondo’s contract, the Grizzlies looked into trading him, as they did Beverley. But now Rondo gets to decide where to go, and it’s back to the team he won a ring with in 2020.

It works for the Clippers, it works for the Grizzlies, it works for the Lakers, and it works for Rondo. It works for the NBA, too, because salary caps are idiotic and do not foster “competitive balance,” as they’re sold to the public as doing. You know just as well before an NFL season as an NBA season in which a half-dozen teams are title contenders, and it’s the same group of clubs that have the superstars, they just might happen to be in smaller markets like Milwaukee or Tampa Bay.

Might as well have it be a system where everyone benefits.

NASCAR stuff!

The worst place to be in sports is the middle of the pack in the final laps at Daytona. You know the big wreck is going to happen, and when it does, all you can do is hope you miss it as cars in front of you bounce off of each other in a smoky metallic blizzard. It’s just a matter of timing and fortune.

There may never have been more certainty of a pileup to end a race than Saturday night, when three of the top five drivers going to overtime — after a predictable-in-its-own-right big wreck with three laps to go— needed to win the race to advance to the NASCAR playoffs.

None of the three — Daniel Suarez, Chris Buescher, and Ross Chastain — got the win. Instead, it was Ryan Blaney, now a three-time winner on the season. Tyler Reddick, who finished sixth at Daytona, wound up grabbing the final playoff spot on points.

Bubba Wallace also missed the playoffs, but had his best finish to date in the No. 23 car, finishing third behind Reddick and Buescher, bumped up to second place when Busscher failed post-race inspection — a big bullet dodged for NASCAR that he didn’t wind up winning and celebrating a playoff spot only to be stripped of it.

It’s Wallace’s second career runner-up finish, both at Daytona, and his best result since placing third at the Brickyard in 2019. It will be interesting to see how Wallace and the 23 fare next year as the 23XI team co-owned by Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin adds another car, with future Hall of Famer Kurt Busch piloting the 45.

If Jordan eventually adds a third car, it would make sense for it to be the 12… but that’s exactly what Blaney drove to victory lane at Daytona on Saturday.


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