You are seriously overthinking how this works. It's not like the Lakers are bankrolling the lower market teams either. Even if they did so what? In order for the NBA to survive the WHOLE product has to be good. You could pile every star in Milwaukee and they would never produce the income the Lakers or Knicks would based on POPULATION and TOURISM alone.
Miami Heat was the same way. Miami is NOT a sports town. When the big 3 were there people just weren't interested as much as some thought. They are profitable but some cities have competitive advantages others simply just don't have.
Right. Cleveland has a huge payroll and the Lakers help subsidize it. Lakers wanted Lebron a few years ago, but he chose to go to Cleveland. Lakers help pay his salary.
Now, all that said, while the NBA, in itself, is a capitalistic organization, that operates within the free market; the teams are not. The teams operate within the league. Salary cap, rookie contract scales, max salaries, different markets, etc., all reflect that the teams and players are not operating within a "free market" system. Technically, that's okay. Could the Lakers exist on their own? No, they'd be the Globetrotters. Part of their profitability is tied to having teams to compete with around the league.
However, keep this in mind. Why does the league expand into markets where it can't turn a profit? In theory, expansion is designed to increase revenue and interest (and create more jobs - including roster spots) in new markets around the country/continent/globe. If so many NBA teams are losing money, why doesn't the league contract? Why do the Lakers cut a check to teams in losing markets? Why not eliminate some of those teams?
Is the league really better off with a team in Charlotte? Would the fans there not turn on the TV and support another team? Of course they would, and have in the past, and will in the future.
Now, all that said, I actually like the NBA being in so many markets. In my lifetime, I've lived around the south/southwest and mid-Atlantic, and have had the opportunity to see the Lakers play 15 different teams on the road. And if you go to Lakers games on the road, you know that frequently, their fans represent a significant portion, if not a majority, of the fans in attendance. Which, maybe, at the end of the day, is part of the point. The Lakers drive the league and fan interest all over the country. The increased markets lead to more fan interest, and larger TV deals, of which all the teams, including the Lakers benefit. Even though the Spectrum deal is primarily a local deal, it is still the network that airs on League Pass, which (Lakers) fans from all over the country have been subscribing to for over 20 years, largely/primarily to see the Lakers.
So, yes, I think the Lakers (namely Jeannie Buss) see a value in having all these teams in so many markets. What I don't believe is that A) so many teams are losing money, B) the Lakers need to be sending a bigger payout, and/or C) the Lakers should be subsidizing teams that are paying the luxury tax.
As far as the Lakers TV deal. They get that deal, in large part, due to their popularity. Absolutely the market matters, but the Clippers don't have that same deal. Nothing close to it.
My concern is that the Lakers' ownership at one time had the foresight to tap into the LA market. Other teams could have done it, or could leave for a more attractive market now. For some reason, they choose not to. They get beautiful, new, tax-subsidized arenas in various mid-size markets around the country. And the Lakers cut the check.
Something doesn't add up.
Personally, I don't think these teams lose money. And while the profit sharing may be okay, I think the owners should sell their teams and reap their billions, rather than place further restrictions on the Lakers' ability to more fully utilize the advantage of the market they staked a claim to (and have willingly shared) over 50 years ago.