Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
You’re the GM: Is that how you would have played the Kobe re-signing?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: For one thing, I would have waited to see how Bryant’s physical capabilities might have changed since the Achilles injury. What was the rush? Also, I wouldn’t be looking at his extension as “good business” relative to a new TV contract or some sort of tribute to Bryant and the Lakers’ aura. The NBA remains a salary-cap sport, so the primary concern has to be what this means to L.A.’s ability to fit pieces around him. That’s harder at $24 million than it would be at, say, $18 million. Maybe the Buss family will spend itself into Mikhail Prokhorov tax territory but if it does, don’t blame some backup power forward for any multiplier effect — Bryant’s contract will be the driver of that.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Yes. The Lakers definitely need his alpha dog personality and, despite any doubts about his ability to come back after a torn Achilles’ tendon, he keeps them relevant in the Western Conference. While his $48.5 million extension means the Lakers will not have room to add two max-level free agents next summer, that was likely a pipe dream anyway. And if LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony are so inclined, there is still room for one of them to climb aboard. If I’m the Lakers, I’m not expecting that to happen and might have my sights set on the summer of 2015 when Kevin Love could return to California and Kobe is just a year away from being ready to finally pass the baton.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: In an ideal world, I would have sat down Kobe and said, “Kobe, my man, you’re the greatest. We’ve paid you nearly $300 million over 18 mostly glorious seasons. Let’s get you to about $12 million a season, and believe me, once you’ve retired, we’ll continue to pay you handsomely as the franchise’s No. 1 ambassador. One day, you’ll probably even own a chunk of this thing. But, look, if a sixth title is really important to you, let’s get that salary down, because we all know the modern-day NBA is not the spend-till-you-bleed MLB your pal Magic is tinkering with. Believe me Kobe, we want to give you the moon, but the CBA says we can only afford the crescent part if we want to end up with a full moon that can really contend.” That’s the ideal world. The reality is what played out, and Kobe, the living legend, in taking $48.5 million over two years, cost his team the flexibility to rebuild as thoroughly as it might, if not this summer, than in 2015 as well.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: I would have gone one season. That’s a reasonable approach as a show of confidence Kobe has earned and a benefit to the organization that will be able to play and market one of the all-time greats. But two seasons before he gets through a month of games while returning from a serious injury at 35 years old? That’s very steep. And as I wrote Monday, there is also the human cost. The Lakers will be trying to recruit superstar free agents while also telling them that arguably the strongest personality in the league will still be a prominent presence.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: No. I understand the loyalty aspect of it, as well as Kobe’s impact on the Lakers’ revenue, no matter how many games they win or lose. But they probably locked themselves into two more years of not contending for a title by handing him that contract. Salary aside, I’d rather have Tim Duncan than Kobe going forward (for a variety of reasons), and Duncan will get paid less than half of what Kobe’s getting paid. In fact, Kobe’s getting paid more than Duncan and Tony Parker combined each of the next two years. And that puts the Spurs in a much better position than the Lakers in terms of contending for a championship.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I’ve already gone on record several times about this one. I have no quarrels with Mitch Kupchak and how the Lakers’ front office “played” this one. I’d have played it the same way, all the way down to making sure to pose and smile in the picture of everyone sitting around the signed contract extension that was tweeted out before the ink was dry. You can argue that business trumped basketball sense in this case, as it often does in this profession. Sometimes that is just the way the game is played. And there is no guarantee that if Kobe had decided to give the Lakers the home franchise discount that they’d have found a way to lure anyone better than Kobe to serve as the face and backbone of the franchise moving forward (just ask Dwight Howard how that works).
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: You know, I get it. The Lakers can’t just be the Lakers, they need to be The Lake Show. They are Hollywood, and they have to have megawatt star power, a BIG name to put up there on the marquee. And in the NBA today, other maybe LeBron James, there’s no name bigger than Kobe Bryant. He’s been a Laker for life, and with this new extension in hand, he will likely retire as a Laker. That’s a great storyline and a terrific career ending to one of the greatest NBA careers in recent memory. The real question is: Is all of that worth nearly $50 million for two years, for a veteran player coming off what has historically been a tough injury for players to overcome? And in some circumstances — different cities, with different financial models — there is no way this could be considered a viable deal. But this isn’t some city, this is Los Angeles. And in L.A., the stars shine brightest. Always have, always will.
Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA Greece: Yeap! The Lakers made the choice to build their future around Kobe Bryant over the past few years and they have to stick to their plan. Meaning that Kobe is Kobe. In him, you know that you get a superstar, a great leader, a one-of-a-kind scorer, a player that will push himself and the team to its limits. Having Kobe around alters the way you have to built a team. You don’t need a Big 3 plan on the horizon (like the Heat, the Celtics, the Knicks, or now the Nets). The safest way to success is to find the right tools to set along the court next to him. So, I don’t think that losing the chance to lure another superstar is something necessarily bad. As the Greek saying goes “where there are many roosters, the dawn breaks late.”
Philipp Dornhegge, NBA Deutschland: First of all: You can’t blame Kobe for getting paid. Second, no. As GM of the Lakers, I probably would have insisted on less money. I don’t mind the two years at all. But to deserve $24 million a year, Kobe would have to make the Lakers a sure-fire playoff team on his own. And I’m not sure he will. We don’t even know if he’ll ever be truly back. A torn Achilles is no joke. Maybe he’ll be good for only 18-20 points from now on, maybe even less. And then the Lakers would have one third of their salary committed to a second-option type of player.
Adriano Albuquerque, NBA Brasil: You know what? I might have tried to spend a little less, but I would have probably done the same. First, I’m a lousy negotiator, so I would eventually cave in to his demands, and second, he does mean a lot to that franchise. Sure, it puts the Lakers in mediocrity for the next two years, but that guy not only helped bring five championships to L.A, he also will keep that building full until he retires. People have been saying Boston played it smart by trading Paul Pierce, but P.P. doesn’t mean to them half of what Kobe means to the Lakers. I get it. I’d do the same, start scouting 2015′s draft and start planning for free agency in 2016.