Olynyk in the mid­dle of a tax­ing sit­u­a­tion

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - - SPORTS - By Ira Win­der­man South Florida Sun Sen­tinel

OAK­LAND, Calif. — No, this is not where Kelly Olynyk wanted to be, at the in­ter­sec­tion of play­ing time, play­off hopes … and the NBA’s lux­ury tax.

And yet it is where the out­side-shoot­ing 7-footer stands as the Mi­ami Heat head into the fi­nal two months of the reg­u­lar sea­son.

If Olynyk achieves his con­tract bonus for play­ing at least 1,700 min­utes or the Heat make the play­offs, which is another Olynyk bonus clause, then the Heat are es­sen­tially locked into pay­ing the lux­ury tax and be­ing on the clock for the oner­ous re­peater tax.

Should Olynyk not clock the tar­geted min­utes and the Heat miss the play­offs, then there are con­tract machi­na­tions that could get the Heat un­der the tax, an NBA source with knowl­edge of the Heat sit­u­a­tion con­firmed to the South Florida Sun Sen­tinel.

With the Heat still over the 2018-19 tax even in the wake of the trades of Tyler John­son and Wayne Elling­ton at last week’s dead­line, the most fea­si­ble path to avoid the tax would be Olynyk miss­ing out on his $1 mil­lion bonus for play­ing 1,700 min­utes as well as his $400,000 bonus for the Heat mak­ing the play­offs.

“I didn’t even know any­thing about that,” Olynyk said. “But I guess I would be a part of it.”

Olynyk, who played a ca­reer-high 1,779

min­utes last sea­son, his first with the Heat, stood at 1,006 go­ing into Sun­day’s game against the Golden State War­riors at Or­a­cle Arena. In or­der to reach the 1,700-minute bonus, it would re­quire an av­er­age of 23.9 min­utes if he ap­pears in each of the sea­son’s re­main­ing games.

“When you’re not play­ing, you just want to play,” Olynyk said of con­sid­er­ing nei­ther the fi­nan­cial im­pact to him­self or the Heat, but rather the de­sire to con­trib­ute. “I guess when you’re closer to it you start think­ing about it.

“I don’t even know where I’m at, hon­estly. So maybe when you’re closer to it, you start think­ing about it. But right now I’m just try­ing to play and get wins and keep in this play­off pic­ture and try to so­lid­ify a spot.”

Teams in the lux­ury tax four years in any five-year pe­riod have to pay an ad­di­tional dol­lar in tax to the league for ev­ery dol­lar above the team tax pay­roll thresh­old, be­yond the tax tiers al­ready in place. The Heat, for ex­am­ple, cur­rently are at a tier that re­quires a $1.50 ad­di­tional pay­ment for each dol­lar above the lux­ury tax.

“Not some­thing I’m aware of at all,” said Olynyk, who has a $12.5 mil­lion base salary.

Even if Olynyk’s bonuses are not achieved, the Heat face a del­i­cate bal­ance in fill­ing out their ros­ter for the bal­ance of the sea­son, man­dated to move to 14 play­ers from the cur­rent 13 by Feb. 21. The Heat and other teams have been in sim­i­lar po­si­tions be­fore against the tax, tog­gling through the fi­nal weeks of the sea­son be­tween 13- and 14-player rosters (with play­ers on two-way con­tracts not count­ing against that ros­ter to­tal).

The Heat ap­par­ently will con­tinue to pri­or­i­tize ros­ter growth, which could lead to the sign­ing of a player for the bal­ance of the sea­son to re­tain the rights of such a player go­ing for­ward, in­clud­ing for sum­mer league.

Reach­ing a buy­out with a cur­rent ros­ter player also is an op­tion, as the Heat did with Beno Udrih in 2016 to al­le­vi­ate tax con­cerns. There does not, how­ever, ap­pear to be such a can­di­date on the cur­rent ros­ter, given the lack of short-term con­tracts on the pay­roll.

The Heat took a light­hearted ap­proach to Olynyk’s min­utes bonus last sea­son, when it was reached with a week left in the sea­son, with coach Erik Spoel­stra quip­ping, “Din­ner, drinks, beers, all that is on him. I’m go­ing to see if I can get tick­ets to a play. All that is on him. I’m go­ing to bill his ac­count for ev­ery­thing.”

The bonus was put into Olynyk’s con­tract as a means of hav­ing enough cap space in the 2017 off­sea­son to re-sign Elling­ton. Guard Dion Wait­ers was given a sim­i­lar bonus clause of $1.1 mil­lion for ap­pear­ing in 70 games, one not achieved this sea­son due to the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pe­riod from last year’s an­kle surgery.

JOHN RAOUX/AP FILE

Through no fault of his own, Kelly Olynyk finds him­self at the cen­ter of the Heat’s two-tiered pos­si­bil­ity of escaping the NBA’s puni­tive lux­ury tax.

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