Laker fans may have some news to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.
On Monday, the Lakers announced that they came to an agreement with Kobe Bryant on a two year contract extension. If Bryant plays out his contract, 2015 will be Bryant’s 20th season with the Lakers, which would be another record to add onto the legacy of the Black Mamba. John Stockton currently holds the longest tenure with one team, playing 19 years with the Utah Jazz.
While this news is a breath of relief for most Laker fans who can’t imagine Bryant sporting a uniform other than the purple and gold, it comes at a price – about $48.5 million to be exact. Bryant’s contract ensures that he will be the highest paid NBA player for those two seasons, so suck on that Joe Johnson and Amare Stoudemire.
One of the main goals of the Lakers’ summer was to maintain financial flexibility for the 2014 offseason. They took on a bunch of 1-year experimental contracts, and 14 games into the season they sit at .500 without Bryant seeing the floor.
Only three Lakers are under contracts next year: Steve Nash, Robert Sacre and Elias Harris, while Nick Young has a player option.
Before today’s deal, the Lakers would have had room for two max contracts next year. However, Bryant’s extension basically eliminates one of those.
The Lakers figure to have $20-$28 million to spend in the offseason, which still leaves the team with the chance at another max contract. Perhaps that goes to Carmelo Anthony? There doesn’t seem to be another free agent worth a max deal, especially with Indiana and Washington locking up Paul George and John Wall, respectively.
Many Laker fans, including myself, would have preferred to see Bryant take a larger pay cut to give the Lakers more financial flexibility and give them more room to strengthen the team. However, this Laker team is showing that they can compete if they have the right pieces. This roster is far from the most talented team in the NBA, though they are clearly having tons of fun playing together, and many of the experiments are working out excellently.
The Lakers should not go after Carmelo Anthony next season. They would be better served if they focused on keeping some of their pieces from this season. Jordan Farmar, Jordan Hill, Wes Johnson and Xavier Henry have shown that they definitely deserve to be back – for the right price, of course. All four of those players could probably be signed for the price of Anthony.
While Pau Gasol has looked like the Gasol of old recently, unless he takes a huge pay cut, he likely will not be a Laker next season.
Next season could be full of reclamation projects once again for the Lakers, depending on how they dole out their remaining cap space. Bryant’s contract is great for nostalgia’s sake, but terrible from a basketball sense. Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak just put a whole lot of trust and money into a 35-year old coming off an Achilles tear.
Bryant’s contract means that the Lakers will continue to be financially handicapped for the next two years. The right combination of players and luck could still bring Bryant his sixth ring, but most importantly, Bryant will likely finish his career in the purple and gold.
This was an article by Alex Campos. You can follow him on Twitter here: @ac3581