Kobe Bryant Defends The $US48.5 Million Contract That The Basketball World Thinks Will Cripple The Lakers

Kobe Bryant signed a two-year, $US48.5 million contract extension earlier this week that will keep him with the Los Angeles Lakers through the 2015-16 season.

The general consensus among NBA commentators is that the Lakers screwed up here.

Kobe will remain the highest-paid player in the NBA under the new deal, and L.A. will have to pinch pennies elsewhere on the roster because of that.

Grantland’s Zach Lowe called the contract “crippling,” writing, “The Lakers are an expensive mediocrity overpaying a franchise star in decline.”

Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated wondered why they gave him $US48 million now, before showed he’s fully healthy. He says the Lakers got sentimental:

“Negotiations for beloved players, past their prime, pit the mind against the heart. Usually, with number-crunching executives at the fore, the mind wins in a blowout. But the heart snuck one out today, as the Lakers handed Bryant a two-year $US48 million contract extension, even though he’s yet to play a game after rupturing his Achilles. There was no rush to do this, unless Bryant is pulling off 360 reverses in practice, and even then there was no rush. If Bryant comes back from the Achilles in a way that scores of other NBA players have not, which is very possible given his mythic healing powers, the Lakers could have coughed up the same deal closer to the date when his contract expires this summer.”

ESPN’s Bill Simmons said that Kobe should have taken a steeper pay cut if he really wanted to win a final championship.

Last night on Twitter, Kobe shot back at those criticisms. He said he shouldn’t have to be “selfless” for the benefit of billionaire owners, and pointed out that L.A. still has max cap room:

Silly hashtags aside, he’s right on a couple points.

The Lakers have room to sign a max-contract free agent next summer, technically. According to salary cap expert Larry Coon, L.A. will have $US22.2 million in cap room next summer if they let go of Pau Gasol — enough to sign a guy like Carmelo Anthony.

They could have as much as $US28 million if they waived Steve Nash and used the stretch provision on his contract.

Kobe’s earlier point is valid too. It’s unfair that players are expected to take less than they’re worth because owners negotiated rules in the new CBA to prevent themselves from spending money.

We’re #TeamKobe here.

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