Yesterday, T.J. Simers of the O.C. Register reported that Jim Buss has an “understanding” with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers will go out and spend as much as they see fit on free agents during the summer of 2014. Then, once they’ve signed up new talent, the Lakers will use the remaining cap space to re-sign the Black Mamba.
However, a report today from ESPN Los Angeles‘ Ramona Shelburne disputes this theory.
According to the news outlet, the Lakers have already entered contract discussion talks with Bryant and his reps:
[pullquote]”I want to put an end to any speculation that we would allow Kobe to become a free agent,” Buss told ESPNLosAngeles.com on Friday night. “That’s not going to happen. Kobe is a top priority for us. He’s a Laker legend and always will be. I don’t think we’re done winning championships with him yet.
“[Lakers general manager] Mitch Kupchak and [Bryant’s agent] Rob Pelinka have been talking, but with him being hurt, it has slowed the process some. I don’t know when it’ll get done, but I have faith in Rob and Mitch to work things out.”[/pullquote]
This is somewhat surprising seeing as the team don’t know how Bryant will look when he comes back from his Achilles injury. Also, every dollar will count in the 2014 off-season: by signing Bryant to an extension now, the team may limit their spending power.
Bryant is set to earn over $30 million this season, however, he is expected to take a large paycut with most predicting a deal in the $10-12 million range, a similar contract amount to the likes of Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett.