As of right now, the Los Angeles Lakers are concerned about getting a healthy Kobe Bryant on the court as soon as possible to help the team contend in 2013-14. There does not appear to be much thought put into what happens once next season concludes. However, it is imperative that the Lakers discuss what they are going to do with Bryant, as the shooting guard will be a free agent next summer if the organization does not extend his contract.
Obviously, if money was not an issue the Lakers would love to extend Bryant, assuming he stays healthy. However, money is an issue and a major one at that. Bryant could command as much as $32 million in 2014-15 if he decides not to take a pay cut. He has already made it clear he has no intentions of doing that in order to open up salary cap space to help make the team more competitive. For that reason, Los Angeles could see their hero leave town.
“How long and for how much do you keep Kobe around?” NBA salary-cap expert Larry Coon said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “What’s the line between loyalty to him and loyalty to making the franchise a winning team? They want to maximize their cap room. Having Kobe on the books at a big salary would really cut into their signing ability.”
Bryant is the Lakers, this much is clear. However, like other franchises in various sports that had legends play for them, sometimes the best thing to do is to cut ties with the superstar. Having a healthy Bryant gives Los Angeles a legitimate shot at competing in the playoffs. However, paying a somewhat healthy Bryant a ridiculous amount of money with no talent around him is a recipe for disaster.
Personally, I could see Bryant take a cut in pay if it means the organization is able to sign one or two big-name free agents. It is something he has stated he does not want to do, but bringing in a player such as LeBron James could certainly change his mind.
Los Angeles fans should not worry about Bryant’s future for now. Instead, they should enjoy the upcoming season and take in every moment they see him play, just in case it is the last time they see him wearing a Lakers jersey.