Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant says don’t assume he wants to take a pay cut to help Lakers next summer

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Actually, yes he will.

This is just a negotiating stance.

Follow along for some background on what we’re talking about: Every Laker player on the roster this season comes off the books at the end of next season . That includes Kobe Bryant and his league-high $30 million salary this season. His contract ends, Kobe will be a free agent. In the wake of Dwight Howard’s exit the Lakers are going to use all that money to rebuild a winner.

The conventional wisdom says the Lakers will bring back Kobe Bryant for the 2014-15 season (and maybe one beyond that) but he will take a pay cut from the $30 million salary he has this season to help the Lakers have room to attract more top players. It’s what Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett did with their last contracts.

But Kobe told Serena Winters of Lakers Nation not to bet on that big cut.

“I’m not taking any at all – that’s the negotiation that you have to have.” Kobe Bryant told Lakers Nation in an exclusive interview at his Kobe Basketball Academy on Wednesday. “For me to sit here and say, ‘Oh yeah, I’m just going to take a huge pay cut. Nah, I’m going to try to get as much as I possibly can.”

He’s taking a pay cut.

Well, he is if he is as serious about winning another title.

We don’t know what the salary cap number will be a year from now, but a safe bet is $60 million or a little less. Nash is on the books for $9.7 million for 2014. If Kobe took no pay cut and demanded another $30 million, the Lakers are now basically at $40 million in salary for two players. That’s room for essentially one max deal, then a lot of minimum ones. Good luck convincing LeBron James to leave Miami or Carmelo Anthony to leave New York for a team of 40-year-old Nash, 36-year-old Kobe and a bunch of minimum salary guys.

Kobe wants to win another ring and he knows how this works. He’s also ultra-competitive Kobe, so he has to spin the negotiations as a win. So he’s playing tough now but don’t be shocked if he takes a contract at $10 million or less, giving the Lakers room to chase a couple of max players, or to spread that wealth around a little for quality players to go around their stars. Whoever they are.

But that only works if Kobe plays ball. And no matter what he says now, he will when it comes to make a sacrifice for the team. Because he knows it’s the only way he gets ring No. 6.

Isaiah Thomas nutmegs Knicks center Marshall Plumlee (video)

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Isaiah Thomas usually saves his best play for the fourth quarter, but the Celtics guard showed out early with this pass between Marshall Plumlee‘s legs to get Kelly Olynyk a layup.

Thomas uncharacteristically just didn’t have enough late. Though he scored 39 points, he shot just 2-for-9 in the final period, as the Knicks pulled away for a 117-106 win.

Kevin Durant misses dunk so hard, ball flies past halfcourt (video)

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Kevin Durant played great in the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night, but – perhaps fueled by excess emotion – he missed this incredibly emphatic dunk attempt.

Later, Russell Westbrook showed his former teammate how to do it (sparking their apparent conversation):

James Harden outduels Giannis Antetokounmpo as they produce fantastic highlight video

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James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo met in a battle of two of the NBA’s best point guards. (Still weird to say.) The final lines:

  • Harden: 38 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 blocks
  • Antetokounmpo: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks

The winner? Harden and the Rockets, who topped the Bucks, 111-92.

But the real winner? Anyone who gets to watch this highlight video. It just gets better as it goes.

PBT Extra: Who do you want to see most in first All-Star Game?

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Tonight the NBA All-Star Game starters will be announced. Then the coaches have a week to vote and the rest of the roster will be put together by them.

This year should see a few first-time All-Stars, guys bursting on the scene and grabbing fans attention — so we asked people on Twitter who they most wanted to see in his first All-Star Game and I break it down in this PBT Extra.

The winner? Giannis Antetokounmpo with 45 percent of the vote. Which shouldn’t be a surprise, he’s second in the fan voting for the frontcourt in the East (behind only LeBron James). Good news for those fans, the Greek Freak is almost guaranteed to be a starter, he’s getting plenty of media votes and likely a lot from the players as well.

Second place in the poll? Joel Embiid of the Sixers. I’d love to see him, but will players and media members vote in a guy on a minutes restriction? Will the coaches pick him for that same reason? He is on the bubble.