Because of the artificial restrictions created by the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, the most the Lakers could pay Austin Reaves this summer in restricted free agency was a four-year deal worth up to $56 million. However, he could have gotten four years and approximately $100 million from another team with cap space, such as the San Antonio Spurs, which the Lakers would have then had to decide whether or not to match.
Ultimately things never came to that, as Reaves simply re-signed in Los Angeles on the first day of free agency without waiting on an offer sheet that might never have come. And when Reaves was asked (somewhat facetiously) by ESPN analyst Zach Lowe whether or not he would be “bitter” with the Spurs or try to “exact vengeance” upon them for not making him an offer that could have nearly doubled his earnings over the next four years, Reaves showed his now-characteristic level of perspective (via “The Lowe Post”):
“It’s hard to be mad at making $54 million. That’s way more money than I ever thought I would make, especially playing basically a kid’s sport for a living. Obviously, I wish I could have as much money as possible but, like I said, fit and opportunity in LA is really what we wanted and really where we wanted to be.”
That may sound overly humble now, but it’s also probably the truth. Reaves surely had confidence coming out of college — he did tell teams not to draft him in the second round so he could pick his own destination for maximum possible success, after all — but even he likely didn’t think he’d have more than $50 million on the table for his first deal (a deal that started as a mere two-way contract, it should be additionally noted).
In short, no one could have predicted how quickly he has ascended to this level. Certainly not the Lakers, or they might have offered him more than a two-year rookie deal.
But I digress.
Still, while it’s probably at least a slight bummer to “only” be making $56 or so million over the next four years when compared against $100 million, Reaves seems to be content. And given what the Lakers and their fans have seen of his mindset over his first two years, he may not be motivated to start a blood feud with the Spurs specifically for not offering him such a contract last summer, but we can all be pretty damn sure he’s going to put in the work to make other teams not even hesitate to offer him the most possible money at the end of his current deal.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.