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LeBron James Takes $3 Million Less to Keep Lakers Under Second Apron, Sources Say: What It Means

LeBron James Takes  Million Less to Keep Lakers Under Second Apron, Sources Say: What It Means

LeBron James has agreed to a roughly $3 million reduction to keep the Los Angeles Lakers under their dreaded second apron. James signed a two-year, $101.355 million contract instead of the two-year, $104 million maximum he could have renewed for, according to league sources.

In addition to the player option and no-trade clause, James’ contract also includes a 15% buyout, the sources said.

James’ new contract puts the Lakers at just under $188.9 million on the second apron. If the Lakers can shed two veterans’ minimum contracts — attaching a second-round pick to entice a trade partner — they’ll create two roster spots and the flexibility to use a $5.2 million taxpayer exception. The Lakers have opted to enter previous seasons with just 14 players on their roster for flexibility in trades and on the buyout market.

Gary Trent Jr. and Spencer Dinwiddie are among the names to watch if the Lakers can secure enough cap space to use the mid-tier taxpayer exception, according to league sources.

Had the Lakers become a second-tier team, they would have suffered several severe restrictions on how they could build their roster for the rest of this season. For example, teams above the second tier could not trade first-round picks seven years into the future, could not trade cash in a trade, would lose the mid-tier exception, would be limited to 100% salary matching in trades and could not combine multiple players in a trade, among many other restrictions.

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But with James accepting a small reduction, the Lakers are limited only to the restrictions of the first apron, which include the inability to acquire a player via sign-and-trade, the inability to use more than the mid-level taxpayer exception (worth about $5.2 million), and the disallowance of using a pre-existing trade exception or reclaiming additional salary in a trade deal, among many other restrictions.

James had previously discussed taking a significant salary cut to allow the Lakers to sign a top player beyond the non-taxable mid-level. The list of players he would have accepted a discount for included James Harden, Klay Thompson, DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas. However, only Valanciunas was available in that price range, but he ended up signing with Washington on a three-year, $30 million deal.

The Lakers’ roster consists of 15 players, which means they need to make a unification deal if they want to open up a new roster spot.

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(Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)