Kobe Bryant is in the last year of his contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. If you’re waiting for news of a contract extension for Bryant, you’ll have a long wait.
This doesn’t mean that Kobe will be done playing with the Lakers after this season; it’s just that the team doesn’t plan to extend his current contract for salary cap reasons.
According to T.J. Simers, Jim Buss and Bryant have “an understanding” where the team will use as much of the salary cap as they see fit to sign free agents and bring in new talent. They’ll then use the remaining cap space to re-sign Bryant:
[pullquote]He becomes a free agent at the end of the season, and Jim Buss says because of the pay structure of the NBA, the Lakers will allow Kobe to become a free agent.
He says he has talked to Kobe and believes they have an understanding, Bryant waiting as a free agent while the team spends to upgrade and then using what is left over to pay Kobe.
“We’ve probably talked,” says Kobe while being somewhat vague, “but I’m putting off any thought of that.”[/pullquote]
This sounds like the perfect situation from the Lakers’ side of things; it seems that they will renounce the rights of all their expiring contracts – including Bryant and Pau Gasol – which will almost completely clear their books. They’ll then have room to sign at least two max contract players.
After they’re done upgrading the roster, they’ll then be able to go back to Bryant and re-sign him using the remaining cap space that’s available. Just how much the Lakers would be willing to use isn’t clear at this time.
Would Bryant really be willing to play for the minimum? It seems doubtful, but it depends how much the Black Mamba really wants that sixth ring…