Much was made early this off-season when Kobe Bryant publicly said that he would not take a pay-cut next season. Whether a negotiating ploy or a simple fact, Bryant stood firm in his demands. Still, Bryant has also made it known he won’t be playing for any team BUT the Lakers. However, the two sides have yet to even open up contract negotiations.
According to the LA Times, Bryant and the Lakers have yet to discuss his next, and likely last, contract with the team. Bryant is eligible for a 5% raise on his current $30.4 million contract this year, putting him into the neighborhood of $32 million. Few expect Bryant to demand that much money as he’s well aware of the team’s situation heading into 2014, but Bryant still wants to make the most out of his final contract.
A more reasonable assumption is Bryant takes a pay cut in the neighborhood of $12-$15 million, allowing the Lakers to sign at least one, possibly two top-flight free agents next summer. We know the team will be targeting the likes of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony while possibly looking to retain Pau Gasol. The quicker the team can finalize a deal with Bryant (and even Gasol), the better off they are. If the team goes into the off-season with neither resigned, the cap holds of each player will severely limit the options of signing free-agents, which further increases the need to finalize extensions before the off-season.