Time to talk contracts, sacrifices and hometown discounts.
The debate still simmers on the two-year, $48.5-million extension Kobe Bryant signed almost a year ago to stay with the Lakers.
Some Lakers fans appreciated the loyalty the Buss family showed in making him the highest-paid NBA player the next two seasons.
Other fans thought Bryant accepted too much for a player who turned 36 a few months ago. He will make $23.5 million this season and $25 million next season.
"Did I take a discount? Yeah. Did I take as big a discount as some fans would want me to? No," Bryant said Friday. "Was it a big enough discount to help us be a contender? Yeah."
Bryant made $30 million last season, meaning he took a 23% reduction this season.
The Lakers tried to woo Carmelo Anthony in July, but he stayed in New York. They offered Pau Gasol three years and $29.5 million, but he took less money to go to Chicago.
With Bryant still on the books, they'll have enough money next summer to sign one player to a maximum contract. When Bryant's contract expires in 2016, they could sign two players to maximum deals under the most modest salary-cap projections.
With the Lakers playing Dallas on Friday, Bryant was asked about Nowitzki and San Antonio's Duncan, two players who took substantially less money to stay with their teams and free up salary-cap space.
Bryant turned the heat another direction.
"It's a big coup for the owners to put players in situations where public perception puts pressure on them to take less money, because if you don't, then you get criticized for it," Bryant said. "It's absolutely brilliant. But I'm not going for it. And I know the new head of the players' association ain't going for it either."
Bryant averaged a league-high 27.5 points before Friday, but was on pace for a career low in accuracy. He is shooting 37.8% after going six for 22 in the Lakers' 140-106 loss to Dallas. He is almost 8% below his career accuracy before this season.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is rarely short on opinions, but he almost deferred when told about Bryant's comments on NBA owners.
"Kobe's one of the smartest guys I've ever known. Kobe and I actually have talked business a lot, so I know him pretty well," Cuban said. "I can't speak about the players' side of it, but I can tell you that as an owner, if you don't spend every penny you can, when you walk down the street, fans scream at you about how cheap you are. They call your kids cheap. They call your cousins cheap. There's no perfect scenarios."
Reserve guard Wayne Ellington rejoined the Lakers after taking an 11-day leave of absence because his father was fatally shot in Philadelphia.
Ellington's eyes welled up as he spoke in front of his locker before scoring eight points in Friday's game. He heard about the death of Wayne Ellington Sr. shortly after the Lakers beat Charlotte last week to end an 0-5 start.
"We were on a pretty good high … everybody was excited in the locker room," he said. "Not even 15 minutes after that was the lowest of all lows that I've ever been at in my life. Life can play some tricks on you. Basketball becomes very secondary very fast when you're dealing with life issues like that."
Ellington said he heard from Bryant "almost every day" while he was away from the team.
"As our leader, he's been unbelievable," Ellington said.
Wayne Ellington Sr., 57, was shot by an unknown assailant while driving. It appeared to be a targeted shooting for an unclear reason, a Philadelphia police official told the Philadelphia Inquirer.