The biggest news of the week, and possibly the season, came down on Monday when Kobe Bryant agreed to a two-year extension worth $48.5 million. The news was met with joy from some, but trepidation from others.
While most agree that Bryant has earned this money because of all that he has brought to the Lakers throughout the years, many were hoping that Bryant would take a substantial pay cut, similar to that of fellow veteran Tim Duncan took, with the belief that the Lakers could use the extra money to lure in one or two superstars to pair with Bryant.
There is no doubt that the goal of the Lakers is to win championships, but with this deal, the Lakers may have made it more difficult to achieve that goal in the near future. So with that, we asked our experts the question, with the Kobe contract extension, have the Lakers prevented themselves from improving the team as a whole? This is what they had to say:
Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner): The Lakers locking up Kobe Bryant for two more years after this season at $48.5 million was surprising to say the least. Bryant has yet to play a game on his surgically repaired Achilles and may be nowhere near the player of old when he returns. But the team had no intention of letting him hit free agency and chose to gamble on the prospect of him bouncing back from this serious injury.
Although the move to re-sign Bryant at such high price limits the moves the team can make in free agency this summer, there’s still hope that the Lakers can build a contender around the aging superstar.
Let’s face it; LeBron James isn’t coming to Los Angeles and Carmelo Anthony signing a long-term deal may be just as much of a stretch. Despite missing out on these superstars in 2014, the window of opportunity may come in the summer of 2015 with Kevin Love possibly becoming the team’s primary target.
Although Bryant’s deal will limit the Lakers’ ability to make moves heading toward free agency, the storied NBA franchise is among the best in professional sports in figuring out a way to rebuild regardless of circumstance.
Ramneet Singh (@RamneetSingh24): The Los Angeles Lakers have inked Kobe Bryant for two more seasons, and contrary to what many people believe, the Lakers have gotten better. There is growing concern that the Lakers will be unable to go after the marquee free agents this summer now that Bryant’s contract has put a dent into the cap space, but let’s be honest, the only real possible summer signing would be Carmelo Anthony.
Neither LeBron James nor Dwyane Wade are going to opt out of their deals to go to Los Angeles, but Anthony has been a possibility and remains to be.
The Lakers have one of the best players and leaders in the NBA for two more seasons, so I can’t see how they got worse. The younger players have a great mentor to learn from and when the game is close, the coaching staff has an elite player to design a play for. In addition, the Lakers are still poised to make a run for the younger stars that become free agents in 2016. The front office made the right choice when offering Bryant that two-year deal, they set the team up perfectly for the present and still have flexibility to rebuild once he leaves.
Suki Thind (@TheRealSuki): I’m not a salary cap expert, and Kobe Bryant hammered that point home with a few people on Instagram, so I won’t sit here and act like I know the intricacies of the CBA and/or which player(s) the Lakers will or won’t be able to obtain in the summer of 2014.
I won’t even argue whether Bryant’s $48.5 million contract over two seasons is fair. What I will say is that obviously the more money spent on one player is less money available for other players. However, if what Bryant is saying is true — that the Lakers offered him this contract and he simply accepted it — than I’m sure Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss know what they’re doing.
Management decided to get this deal done before Kobe’s return in an effort to show good faith toward a player who has worked tirelessly to deliver for the best franchise in the league. The fact that the process didn’t drag on throughout the season indicates that both sides were on the same page.
I truly believe that both sides are concerned about winning championships, and this deal may seem a bit much given the new restrictions of the CBA, but it appears as though both management and Kobe Bryant are confident that the team still has enough money to build a championship-caliber team.
In this league, there are two people I fully trust when it comes to delivering — Kobe Bryant and Mitch Kupchak.
We’ll just have to wait and see exactly how they plan to deliver next.
Kobe Bryant, Mitch Kupchak, Jim Buss Speak Out After Contract Extension