The writing has been on the wall for years that the Pacers won´t exceed the luxury tax threshold. Larry Bird has said it publicly.
It is a reasonable position to take for a small-market team that struggles to make a profit and relies on the league´s revenue-sharing checks (which they would forfeit by exceeding the tax threshold).
If they don´t re-sign Lance Stephenson this summer, however, this will be the reason why.
According to Indy Star Pacers beat writer Candace Buckner, Larry Bird has set a fixed price that he won´t exceed in his offer to Stephenson.
We don´t know exactly what this ¨firm price¨ is, but a good guess would be the numbers our own Tim Donahue laid out in a recent piece about the Pacers´cap situation.
Our best guess is that Larry Bird´s firm price includes a first-year salary of $8.5 million. It might even be closer to $8 million, presuming he doesn´t want to box himself into a corner going forward (and even this number presumes he is willing to waive Luis Scola, which he should be).
Perhaps the bigger question is whether the firm price includes a year restriction. The Pacers, by CBA rules, are the only team that can offer Lance a five-year deal.
My guess is that given the questions about him maturity (or other, worse traits), they wouldn´t offer five. But there is a good chance another team will offer four years, so Indiana will be unlikely to retain him unless they also go that far.
Thus, we´re probably talking about a four-year deal for about $38 million.
If they are willing to go the extra year, that could be closer to five years for $49 million.
Though if they´re only willing to guarantee three years, it would only be a $27 million offer.
Again, this is all presuming a starting salary of $8.5 million next year (and max raises of 7.5% each year).
There are teams that can definitely exceed these offers. Though if the Pacers are willing to go the full five years for nearly $49 million, that would, in my eyes, be a big push — especially if the star treatment they are rolling out for him has any sentimental value.
But if they are only willing to offer three years?
Yeah, that means Lance probably won´t return.