As all Laker fans surely know by now, Kobe Bryant has agreed to a 2-year contract extension, in the neighborhood for $48 million over that time period. What kind of impact does this have on the Lakers going forward?
– Jim Buss should be applauded. As much as Lakers fans like to downplay his accomplishments and question his ability, he stuck to his promise of not letting Kobe hit free agency. Kobe will still be the highest payed player in the NBA until this deal runs out, at which point retirement seems likely. People may say they offered Kobe too much money, but imagine the disaster it would be if they had been unable to re-sign Kobe.
– That massive amount of cap space the Lakers had been salivating over? Mostly gone. The team still does have enough money to sign one max contract player, but that would essentially fill the entire salary cap. Don’t be surprised if the Lakers target multiple lower level pieces instead of a top dog this offseason. Keep in mind with Steve Nash on the books for $9 million next season, that will be a sizable chunk of cap space for the next offseason.
– It says a lot about Kobe’s health. The front office wouldn’t have inked this extension until they had seen him play unless they were completely confident in his return. Kobe is a relentless worker and I’m sure this played a part in the front office’s decision to extend him now.
– He took a significant pay cut (about $5 million) while still being paid for everything he means to this franchise. As much as people like to equate Kobe to Tim Duncan, hoping he would take a similar pay cut, it is a completely different situation. Duncan has been playing reduced minutes and games for years, while Kobe has arguably played too much. Kobe is also the face of perhaps the greatest franchise in the NBA. His off the court value trumps Duncan’s tenfold, hence the salary. As much as a basketball decision as this was, it was equally a business decision.
– The only two other Lakers under contract next year are Robert Sacre and Steve Nash. As ESPN salary cap expert, Larry Coon has noted the Lakers could possibly use the stretch provision on Nash, spreading the cap hit over multiple seasons at a lower amount while waiving Nash. It will be interesting to see what happens with Nash moving forward. Although he has stated he doesn’t intend to retire, his body can only take so much.
– Kobe Bryant will have an opportunity to set the record of most consecutive seasons with the same franchise. Currently, John Stockton holds the record of 19 seasons with the Utah Jazz. If Kobe plays out his two-year extension, he will hit 20 seasons with the Lakers. Just another record for Kobe to hold onto.
– Overall this is a fair deal, although I’m sure many Lakers fans were hoping Kobe might take a larger pay cut. The pipe dream of Kobe taking a minimum salary in an attempt to create the most stacked team possible was never going to happen. He deserves the money he is being paid and keeping him the highest payed player surely was something the Lakers offered to honor Kobe. This is a deal everyone should be happy with. Kobe gets compensated well, the Lakers get to hang onto the face of their franchise, and the Lakers still have the ability to sign a max level player. The extension also ends in the summer of 2016. Some names of potential free agents that summer? Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Danillo Gallinari, Kevin Love, Chris Bosh, Roy Hibbert, Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Brook Lopez, Eric Gordon, and Mike Conley. Let the speculation begin.