Kobe Bryant's next deal: It could take a bit of time
First things first, he's not going anywhere. I'd be shocked- I'm talking flying-hippos-Best Picture-nomination- for-Ninja Assassins-Supreme Court-appointment-for-Ron Jeremy shocked- if Kobe Bryant's next contract wasn't inked with the Los Angeles Lakers, but the how and when is still a little iffy, in no small part due to the labor climate taking shape in the NBA. On the other hand, the extension considered a foregone conclusion a few months ago hasn't been signed. What gives?
Salary cap guru Larry Coon, writing for the New York Times, explains:
"...The real reason might be that signing an extension isn’t his best course of action. Bryant can guarantee himself more money by first becoming a free agent, and then re-signing with the Lakers. The reason for this is pretty obscure — the salary in the first year of an extension cannot exceed the player’s maximum salary (105% of the player’s previous salary, or the league-wide maximum salary by years of service, whichever is greater), and it is amended downward if necessary to conform to this rule. The start of Bryant’s extension would coincide with the start of the next collective bargaining agreement, which could change the way maximum salaries are calculated. If it does, the salary in Bryant’s extension would be subject to the new rules. Depending on how negotiations go, it is possible he could face a significant pay cut.
However, by becoming a free agent in 2010 and signing a new contract instead, Bryant would lock in his salary entirely under the terms of the current agreement. His salary would not be subject to amendment in 2011, as it would be with an extension..."
Whether he technically enters the free agent market or not, the Lakers hold two great trump cards over any other team. First, they can pay him more. Second, there isn't another team he can go to offering a better chance at sustained, ring-generating excellence than the Lakers. So again, he's not going anywhere, but the business side of things is still pretty interesting.