Kobe Bryant could walk away from the Lakers as a free agent next summer.
That’s not at all likely — Kobe has said repeatedly he is a Laker for life and team management has said they want to keep him in the Laker family as long as he wants to play — but how unlikely something is does not at all slow speculation. It never does (Paul George was never going to blow off the first extension to his rookie deal to take less money in L.A., but Laker fans wouldn’t let go of the speculation).
Which brings us to the Los Angeles Times article Tuesday telling us the Lakers and Kobe have not talked contract extension, which was expected but is somehow news.
The Lakers haven’t opened contract negotiations with Bryant, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, taking a wait-and-see approach as he recovers from his injury….
If Bryant asks for the maximum 5% raise over his current salary, he would earn $32 million in 2014-15. The Lakers won’t pay him that much, especially as he comes off a torn Achilles’, because it would seriously dent their salary-cap space. Bryant alone at that cost would take up almost half the estimated $62.5-million cap for NBA teams in 2014-15.
If he took a dramatic pay cut and asked for $10 million to $12 million for 2014-15, it would give the Lakers space to add two top-level free agents next summer.
Bryant has said he doesn’t want to take a pay cut, but that’s just negotiation posturing. He will. Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett took cuts down to the $10 million range and that is what Bryant will do, likely very quickly after July 1 so that the Lakers know they have the money to spend (otherwise he is a $33 million cap hold).
Is it possible the Lakers decide to totally rebuild and/or Kobe thinks he can’t get his sixth ring with the Lakers and leaves. Yes, anything is possible. But it’s also highly unlikely Kobe is anywhere but in the Laker locker room at this time next season.
That’s not going to stop the speculation, however.