We get it … Shaquille O’Neal was lazy, Pau Gasol still hasn’t found his big-boy-pants, Andrew Bynum was unengaged and Dwight Howard wasn’t mentally fit to sport the purple and gold. Let’s not even discuss Smush Parker.
However, let’s talk about Kobe Bryant. None of the aforementioned (even Gasol) are likely to ever wear a Lakers jersey again, and in perfect symmetry the rookie with ultimate promise who stood tall in the limelight to move the Lakeshow forward 18 years ago, is now the respected veteran currently standing alone again.
Due to Bryant’s greed, and Jim Buss’ inexperience, the Lakers will be standing alone outside of the NBA contention gates – for another season.
It was announced yesterday that all three Miami Heat superstars will opt out of their contracts, clearing upwards of $55 million in cap space. It will allow for the Heat to “retool,” according to president Pat Riley.
It’s a collective move that (if it works in favor of the Heat) should be celebrated. In a league where we constantly question a player’s motive, it seems the Heat’s big three truly want to win. For now, they’ve made money a secondary priority.
Meanwhile Lakers fans should be asking themselves, why couldn’t Kobe do that? Should Bryant’s current level of talent, athleticism and impact on the game command more salary than LeBron James, Kevin Durant or Chris Paul?
In a previous interview with Lakers Nation, Bryant explained that he wouldn’t consider taking a pay cut after the 2014 season.
“For me to sit here and say, ‘Oh yeah, I’m just going to take a huge pay cut.’ Nah, I’m going to try to get as much as I possibly can.”
Forget taking a pay cut, I agree with Kobe 100 percent. If there’s any player who shouldn’t be required to take a reduction in salary it’s Kobe.
After five championships, it would be blasphemous to say that Kobe doesn’t deserve a $48 million dollar send-off from the Lakers. In fact, he deserves every penny. One look at his resume and it’s easy to argue that he might deserve more.
There hasn’t been a player in the league that’s worked harder than Bryant. He won the Finals MVP twice, has been to the All-Star Game 15 times coming out with four MVP trophies, won two scoring titles (2006 and 2007), one regular season MVP award and two Olympic gold medals with the U.S. Men’s National team.
Simply put – he’s been the man in the NBA for nearly two decades.
But what about Tim Duncan, the championship he just won, and the $10.3 million he’s taking to return for his 18th season? For Duncan to be considered the greatest power forward of all time, that’s quite a pay cut. It’s selfless and reflects the Spurs culture. It’s another reason why the Spurs have remained competitive.
Bryant and the Lakers have been one of the best marriages in the NBA. It’s been a great example of dedication from both sides of the fence.
The Lakers have been one of the classiest franchises in the NBA for decades, the idea that they’d offer a two-year, $48 million contract out of loyalty, respect and admiration isn’t far fetched. However, who is Kobe Bryant truly loyal to?
Two years was all Kobe could cash in on because of the NBA’s over-age-36 rule, which prevents teams from extending players who are past that age.
Let’s be honest. Kobe Bryant did exactly what he should’ve done – for a selfish guy. After an Achilles tear and consequential knee injury, he cashed in on a payday that keeps him on the throne as the league’s highest-paid player.
At the start of last season’s playoffs, he was the highest paid player in the NBA sitting at home. What perplexes most, is the timing of Bryant’s extension, and why the Lakers completely ignored their right to use “Bird rights” to honor one of their greatest players ever.
It’s ironic that the Lakers failed to move their franchise forward in the best way possible using a rule that Boston Celtics great Larry Bird made famous. The NBA institutes a soft salary cap, meaning teams are allowed to exceed their payroll maximums for various reasons.
An exception to the cap was created to allow teams to re-sign their own players; however, it’s most commonly used for superstars that draw high salaries. The Boston Celtics were the first team to use the exception, exceeding the designated cap (at the time) to re-sign Larry Bird. Thus, the “Bird Exception.”
If the Lakers waited to fill their roster and resign Bryant towards the end of the free agency period, they’d have only $10,616,243 in dedicated salary with close to $60 million for free agent shopping. Instead Bryant will command a third of the Lakers salary cap for the next two seasons.
More than $30 million in cap room is nothing to turn a nose up to either, in a loaded free agency market, it puts the Lakers in a very advantageous position. However the Lakers history has been one of dominance, and until they commit to dominating in every facet of the league, the meager results will remain.
Not to mention who knows what kind of Kobe Bryant will return to the Lakers. Even without the Achilles tear, there was a loss of athleticism in his game. At Bryant’s tender age of 35 years, a return to form isn’t impossible but fair to say it’s improbable.
The Lakers dedicated a third of their cap to an unknown. Although Kobe’s intentions might be to wreak further havoc on the court, his contract extension was based more on more nostalgia and less intelligence.
It’s bittersweet to say the least. On one hand, an NBA icon and Lakers legend is well taken care of, and on the other the Lakers still suffer. Kobe Bryant wears his heart on his sleeve, but unfortunately when it comes to his money, it’s not painted in purple and gold.