Disclosure statement: I am a huge Laker and Kobe fan, so my opinions on this positive and negative may be biased and/or irrational.
Just a few minutes ago, ESPN’s Chris Broussard broke the story that the LA Lakers signed Kobe Bryant to a 2 year, $48.5 million ($23.5 in 2014, 25 in 2015) dollar extension. My immediate reaction? This is an insanely stupid contract. However, after further thought, I’ve calmed down a lot. Let me take you through my range of emotions.
1. $48.5 million is just way way too much no matter what. Even if Kobe was healthy this is too much. LeBon is making $19.5m this year and there is no question he is the best player on the planet earth right now. The salary cap for 2014 is predicted at $62.1m. This means that 1/3 of the Lakers’ cap room is taken up by a 36 y/o 2 guard who I’m sorry dominates the ball the way he did when he was 26, even though his current athleticism doesn’t necessarily rationalize that type of play currently. Besides that doesn’t Kobe want to win more than anything? Shouldn’t he want to keep his cap number as low as possible to try and bring in the best players possible??? Kind of like Tim Duncan taking only $10 million to play for the past 2 years????
2. $17.5 million: The amount that Kobe is probably worth assuming he’s exactly the player he was last year. Let’s remove all emotion, all past history, etc.. In the age of the salary cap and the new CBA (with heavy penalties for excess spending), you just can’t pay players for anything except their current value. Fact is Kobe, when playing at peak condition for a 35 y/o is just not worth more than $17.5 million. He can’t EFFICIENTLY score his points like he used to (and he was never an efficient player, he was always a volume shooter), so factor in that he
can’t doesn’t rebound or pass at a high level or play lock down defense anymore, and he’s just a scorer. You know who else can get you 22 – 25 points a game? Kevin Martin, and he only costs $13m. So basically I’m willing to pay Kobe $1 million more than Martin for each additional ppg he can score.
3. $15 million: The amount that Kobe is probably worth considering he’s just coming back from a torn achilles and is going to be 39 when this contract ends. Achilles injuries are often career ending for older players, Dominque “the human highlight reel” Wilkins barely made a comeback from a similar injury, and he’ll tell you how difficult it was athletically. Fact is Kobe’s game will HAVE to diminish from where he was at last season. Kobe is one of the greatest players ever, and was a GREAT player last year, but injury and age are real things and pretending like he’s going to be same at 37, 38, and 39 is just crazy. I mean unless he finds a way to reopen the Biogensis Clinic LA office.
4. $10 Million: The amount that the LA Lakers have committed to Steve Nash next year. Another player who was great in his day, Nash can barely handle 20 mpg at the moment and he looks even older than that. The salary cap is, again $62.1 million, and add Kobe and Nash together and that accounts for 1/2 the cap amount. Is it just me or does it seem really difficult to rebuild a team with only $30 million in cap space???
5. 1: The amount of first round draft picks the Lakers own between now and 2016!! At least it’s in this year’s 2014 (the most loaded draft ever) draft, however if the Lakers keep playing the way they are they’re going to be stuck with a pick somewhere in the 15 range. This is historically the worst way to rebuild your team. The goal for the Lakers should be to tank this season, hopefully get a top 3 pick and either actually draft Jabari Parker (or if you’re not actually watching the games you can take Wiggins) OR trade that pick for 2-3 picks and load your team with young talent.
(My mood tempers)
6. 2014 draft: It is the most loaded draft in 30 years. There’s a strong chance to get a franchise level player even outside the lottery. Maybe even with a 15 pick we could get a game changer???!! Rodney Hood??? Wayne Shelden?? Perry Ellis??
7. There are NO big-time free agents in 2014. Saving cap space for a max deal really isn’t important for 2014-15, 2015-16. LeBron, who has an opt-out agreement in 2014 is NOT coming to LA. Sorry but he isn’t. Carmelo, who also holds an opt-out, isn’t wanted in LA. Let me repeat, we do NOT want him. Durant has an opt-out in 2015 (as does Westbrook and Love who are both LA guys and there is a lot of talk about them wanting to come to LA). If we can get a few really solid mid-level guys, we can afford to be over the cap for 1 year in 2015-16 to try and entice a top player to LA.
(I’m starting to get positive)
8. Kobe is still Kobe. Even if he’s 1/2 the player he used to be, he’s still Kobe and that is one hell of a player to be. He’s going to be striving for that 6th ring like you wouldn’t believe. He wants… no he NEEEEDDSSS to be remembered as a top 5 player of all time, and that means rings. Kobe will adjust his game to get them. Kobe will bust his ass to be in the best shape possible. Kobe will push his teammates to become their absolute best.
(I’ve sold myself on it)
9. The Lakers are the LAKERS. Listen, all of this comes down to cap space and penalties. The Lakers are one of the wealthiest teams in the world, in one of the top media markets in the world, they can afford to pay Kobe whatever they want. Not to mention, even in his older years, Kobe is still (as Stephen A. Smith says) “Box Office”. He puts asses in seats, and media contracts in place. People want to see Kobe, and he MORE than contributes his part to the Lakers’ bottom line. Not to mention, the Lakeshow can more than afford to pay him even if he didn’t, but that’s the thing… HE DOES!
10. It’s only 2 years. Here’s the thing, even if the Lakers go over the cap, etc. they are going to go all in for the next 2 years to get Kobe that 6th ring and to get the Staples Center it’s 17th banner. If they have to spend to get it the next two years, they will. Why? Because it’s only TWO YEARS. Whatever they do over those next two years, there isn’t another Kobe (lifetime laker, box office draw, with 5 rings), that they are going to need to pay for years. So they are going to go all in, and do what they have to, to bring home one more title. That $62.1 million dollar number isn’t a credit limit, it’s more like a recommended budget. But the Lakers are trust fund babies (literally and figuratively) that can afford to break their budget for few years to bring home a title. You know what, I believe they will too. Maybe that’s just me being a Laker homer, but that’s what I believe.