As John pointed out in the Dump, the Lakers have resigned Kobe Bryant to a two year, $48.5 million extension. Nearly $50 million for a 35-year-old guard coming off Achilles surgery. Say what?
Some say Kobe deserves the money, as some sort of lifetime achievement award for all he’s done for the Lakers organization. Others see the move as one that will cripple the Lakers chance to reload with free-agents. Here’s reaction from some notable NBA writers.
But in agreeing to a deal that will pay him approximately 37.3 percent of the Lakers’ projected $62.9 million salary cap for next season, leaving the organization 62.7 percent to spread out over the additional 12-14 players it takes to fill out a roster, he may have compromised the team’s chances of winning another title.
In what’s become a league that seems to be controlled by teams that manage the cap in order to put together three stars in the same uniform, Bryant all but guaranteed that L.A. can only add one additional max-level free agent over the next two summers, when it will finally have cap space to spend. He also pretty much forced the Lakers’ hand as far as using the stretch provision to waive Steve Nash this coming summer in order to use that extra $10 million on the free-agent market — and also lowered the chance of Gasol returning to the team, unless Gasol is willing to give the team a significant hometown discount. And, of course, there are no guarantees Bryant will be able to return to anything like peak form.
Ken Berger of CBS Sports has a different take:
What’s indisputable, though, is that Bryant is taking a pay cut from the maximum the Lakers could have paid him. Under the rules, Bryant was entitled to 107.5 percent of his previous year’s salary in this extension. Since he makes $30.5 million this season, Bryant’s salary ceiling (subject to negotiation, of course) was $32.8 million for the 2014-15 season.
By agreeing to a ’14-’15 salary of $23.5 million and a ’15-’16 salary of $25 million (the collectively bargained 7.5 percent raise), Bryant is accounting for the expected decline in production for a player his age while also opening up cap room for the Lakers to spend over the next two free-agent summers. With only Bryant and Steve Nash ($9.7 million) on the books next season, the Lakers will have room for a max free-agent with about $12 million to spare. (More room would open up if the Lakers were to waive Nash and “stretch” his remaining obligation over the next three seasons).
Grantland’s Zach Lowe reminds us that Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and even Miami’s trio took significant team friendly discounts. Lowe also credits the Celtics:
Boston fans have a similar devotion to Paul Pierce, though it is perhaps less fierce than the grip the NBA’s Lord Voldemort has on his Death Eaters. But the Celtics did not flinch when the opportunity arose to deal Pierce and Garnett in exchange for some bad contracts and three plum first-round picks. They let Doc Rivers, the only man to coach them to a title since the mid-1980s, broker his way to the Clippers in exchange for another pick.
There are other ways to handle business, even the business of a legend. Those ways are probably smarter than the route the Lakers took today. The Celtics are now the envy of every front-office executive who craves a rebuilding challenge, provided the challenge comes with some nice resources. The Lakers are an expensive mediocrity overpaying a franchise star in decline.
This was a standoff and the Lakers blinked first (and bent over). As desperately as they needed Kobe Bryant to stick around, he also needed them.
The Mamba doesn’t join other players, they come to him.