Kobe Bryant signs three-year extension with Lakers

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Thumbnail image for Bryant_game2.jpgUPDATE 6:15 pm: We have some estimated salary figures now, via FanHouse, and Kobe will join Michael Jordan as the only other NBA player to make $30 million in a season.

Bryant is expected to make $24.8 million next season (part of his current deal), then $26 million in 11-12, $28.7 million in 12-13 and $31.5 million in 13-14.

He can probably live on that.

4:30 pm: The Lakers championship window is now officially open through 2014. That groan you just heard was general managers and fans in 29 other cities.

Completing negotiations that had been going on since before the season started, Kobe Bryant has signed a three-year extension on to his deal (which had one year left after this one, although he had an opt-out option). He will be a Laker until the summer of 2014 now.

“We are extremely pleased that we were able to reach an agreement and come to terms on the extension at this time,” said (Lakers General Manager Mitch) Kupchak said in a released statement. “Kobe has been a cornerstone of the Lakers for well over a decade, helping to lead us to four NBA Championships and in the process developing into one of the greatest players in basketball history.”

“Two of our main goals heading into this season were to sign Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol to contract extensions,” continued Kupchak. “With the signing of Pau earlier this season and the signing of Kobe today, we were able to accomplish those goals, helping to keep the core of this team intact for the foreseeable future and in turn help to ensure the franchise’s continued success over the years to come.”

Bryant’s deal could be worth $90 million, and he is one of the few players in the NBA worth that salary to owners. Bryant fills arenas, from the top of the cheap seats to the luxury suites. The Lakers charge higher ticket prices than any other team in the NBA, and they sell out nightly — even for the Wizards. Because people will pay to see Kobe play.

The fact Bryant signed with the Lakers is not a surprise (although he could have made more money opting out and resigning), but the timing was a bit odd. Sources say that basically the same offer has been on the table since October. Bryant had a lot of things to weigh, from whether the Lakers would stay in contention to the upcoming new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Bryant makes $23 million in salary this year, will make $24.8 next year. This very likely locks him in at at a similar max salary into the new CBA (the owners said they want existing contracts changed to conform with the new CBA, but I have a better shot with Brooklyn Decker than there is of the players union agreeing to that). The Lakers also have Gasol and Artest under contract until 2014, with Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom through 2013. The Lakers have locked up their core.

It also locks the Lakers in as title contenders for four more seasons.

NBA: Kenneth Faried got away with foul on decisive basket in Nuggets’ win over Bulls

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The Bulls’ biggest loss Friday was Jimmy Butler to injury. His absence certainly contributed to a loss to the Timberwolves the following night.

But Chicago also lost to the Nuggets on Friday, and perhaps that wouldn’t have happened if the game were called correctly down the stretch.

With Denver up two points and 21.1 seconds remaining, Kenneth Faried offensively rebounded a free throw and scored. The Bulls then intentionally fouled down the stretch, and Faried and Danilo Gallinari added a few free throws in the Nuggets’ 115-110 win.

One problem: Faried should’ve been called for offensively fouling Taj Gibson on the key putback, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report:

Faried (DEN) extends his arm into Gibson (CHI) and dislodges him, affecting his ability to retrieve the rebound.

This was a huge swing. Instead of Taj Gibson – a 69% career free-throw shooter – going to the line for two attempts with Chicago down two points, Faried put the Nuggets up four. Even if Gibson split at the line, the Bulls would have been in significantly better shape.

As usual, we can’t know what would’ve happened if this call were made correctly. But it significantly set back Chicago.

NBA considering if jump-on-back foul should be flagrant foul

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The video above is an intentional foul — Chris Paul jumped on the back of Dwight Howard. The same thing has happened to Andre Drummond.

Is it a flagrant foul?

The Boston Celtics tweeted this out on Sunday.

The NBA was quick to let people know that this is just something under consideration — there has been no change in the rules. This may well be where the league is headed, but it’s not there yet.

The NBA defines a flagrant foul as “unnecessary contact committed by a player against an opponent.” To me, leaping on a player’s back like that qualifies. (A flagrant two foul is “unnecessary and excessive contact” and leads to an ejection; this is not that.)

Jared Dudley — one of the more vocal players on union issues — added a good point.

Consider this part of the coming changes on the intentional fouling rules period. But this one tweak could come much faster.

NBA: Foul on Cavaliers that sparked Celtics’ comeback called in error

Cleveland Cavaliers' J.R. Smith makes a move on Boston Celtics' Evan Turner (11) during the third quarter of a NBA basketball game in Boston Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
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The Cavaliers were in great shape against the Celtics on Friday, leading by four points with seven seconds left.

Then, it all went so wrong for Cleveland.

J.R. Smith was called for fouling Evan Turner on a made layup, cutting the margin to two points. Turner missed the free throw, but the ball went out of bounds off the Cavs. Then, Avery Bradley made a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Boston the win.

Rewind, though, and an incorrect call drove the sequence, according to the NBA.

Smith shouldn’t have been called for fouling Turner, per the Last Two Minute Report:

Smith (CLE) makes incidental contact with Turner’s (BOS) body as he attempts the layup.

If this were officiated correctly, the Cavs would’ve had the ball and a two-point lead with 5.9 seconds left. That’s not a lock to win – they’d still have to inbound the ball and make their free throws – but it’s close.

Cleveland is definitely entitled to feel the refs wronged them out of a victory.

Report: Kevin Durant has “done his due diligence on the Bay Area”

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Kevin Durant has not made up his mind about what he will do as a free agent this summer. Until his playoff run ends, whenever that may be for the Thunder, his focus will be on bringing a title to Oklahoma City.

But even he admits he can’t help but think about free agency a little.

The buzz around the league is Golden State is at the front of the line if Durant decides to leave OKC, and he has done some research, reports Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

The Warriors play in front of an intimidating Oracle Arena crowd and are expected to debut a new San Francisco arena in 2019. Durant has quietly done his due diligence on the Bay Area, too, sources told Yahoo Sports.

His people — specifically agent Rich Kleiman and personal manager Charlie Bell — would be stupid not to have done some research on not only Golden State but on every other team he might consider: Houston, Miami, Washington, both teams in Los Angeles, the Knicks, and on down the line. Golden State, playing with Stephen Curry, certainly would have its attractions.

I’m still in the camp that Durant signs a 1+1 deal to stay in Oklahoma City (meaning he can opt out after one more season, in 2017), and it’s all about the cash. While he could get 30 percent of a $90 million cap this summer (about $27 million a season to start), with one more year of service in 2017 Durant could get 35 percent of $108 million ($37.8 million to start). That’s a lot of cash. Plus he gets one more chance at a ring with Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, who both are 2017 free agents.

But you can be sure whatever Durant decides, it will be well researched and thought out. And he’s not going to announce it in a live special on ESPN.