Post-Nash Lakers Must Focus on Dwight Howard’s Bird Rights, Not Dwight

Los Angeles Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak acquired future Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash using an $8.9 million trade exception and is likely focusing on another technical tool within the new CBA in his quest to land Dwight Howard.

The legalese of interest is none other than Bird Rights—a critical component to the NBA's labor agreement and a cornerstone to the soft cap salary structure governing team payrolls. 

Named for the inimitable Larry Bird, Bird Rights permit teams to exceed the salary cap to re-sign players as free agents after playing with a team for three years. When a player is traded, his new team inherits his Bird Rights.

Using Chris Paul's rejection last week of the Clippers' three-year, $60 million extension as an example, I discussed how the new CBA complicates a Howard trade because players will typically hold out and become free agents for more money on longer-term contracts instead of signing extensions.

Why would anyone accept an extension when he can let his contract expire and get a longer deal for more money as a free agent under their Bird Rights?

Signing extensions is a thing of the past. A player's agent simply won't allow it.

At first, it muddled the Lakers' quest to land Howard as Lakers management was insisting D12 sign an extension if they traded for him.

Shrewdly, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak has switched tact and is reportedly no longer demanding contract assurances from Howard in a possible trade.

And true to form, Kupchak is ahead of the curve.

The Lakers should be doing all they can to trade for Howard's Bird Rights.

Why? Let's look at how the Deron Williams signing unfolded.

After months of conjecture, Williams' possible destinations came down to two choices—the Dallas Mavericks and the Brooklyn Nets.

The Mavericks could only offer four years, $75 million to t...

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