The Laker general manager stepped into the free-agent market this week armed with only the mid-level exception to offer players, hoping for that rarest of exceptions: the guy who actually means it when he says he values a championship over everything else.
The off-season actions of NBA players repeatedly show that it's a league that values dollars over diamonds, cha-ching over bling-bling.
When Shaquille O'Neal came to town with that seven-year, $125-million contract in 1996, the Lakers immediately vaulted into championship contention and salary-cap constraints. If rings were all that mattered, the Lakers would have free agents calling them. Instead, the Lakers of recent years have had to make do with everything from the old (A.C. Green and John Salley) to the odd (Dennis Rodman and Isaiah Rider).
That's why, early on in the process, the smart money's on the money â€” and not the Lakers â€” when it comes to luring the top-tier free agents.
Players still capable of matching their best seasons, such as point guard Gary Payton and power forwards P.J. Brown and Juwan Howard, can still command more than the $4.9-million mid-level exception the Lakers have to offer.
source: http://www.latimes.com/sports/basketbal ... nba-lakers