Lakers and Bynum find middle ground
With the delicate application of pen to paper, the Lakers locked up their center of the future until 2013 and boldly continued to rack up financial commitments for what they hope will be another series of championships.
Andrew Bynum signed a four-year contract extension for $57.4 million Thursday, completing an often tense month of negotiations between the Lakers and Bynum’s agent, David Lee.
Bynum, who will make $2.8 million this season, will earn close to $42 million over the first three years of the extension. The fourth year will be a team option for about $16 million.
“This has been a fantastic week for me so far: turning 21, winning our first two games of the season, and now getting this new contract signed,” Bynum said in a statement. “This gives me and my family financial security, and more importantly, cements my future with the Lakers, which in my opinion is the best organization in all of professional sports. I couldn’t be happier.”
The Lakers and Bynum didn’t seem to be an entirely happy match earlier this week, with Bynum’s agent asking for an average of $17 million a year on a five-year deal and the Lakers countering with an average of $11 million a year over five years.
Lee spent more than a week in Los Angeles trying to negotiate the extension but returned to his New York home Wednesday afternoon without a deal.
Lee quickly returned to Los Angeles on Thursday, however, one day before the NBA contract-extension deadline for players such as Bynum, the 10th overall pick in the 2005 draft.
The two sides came to terms on an average salary of $14.35 million a year.
“I think it’s a good deal for both parties,” Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said. “The option would have been to wait a whole season and even at that point in time, you may not have all the information you necessarily need.
“But we feel that after three years of knowing what kind of person he is, how hard he’s worked, and after the training camp he’s had, we’re comfortable that he’ll be back to the way he was playing in January in the foreseeable future.”
If an agreement had not been reached, Bynum would have become a restricted free agent in July, though the Lakers would have retained the right to match any offer he received. Bynum also could have signed a one-year deal next season with the Lakers for about $3.8 million and become an unrestricted free agent in July 2010.
With Bynum now under lock and key, the Lakers will pay luxury taxes for years to come. They are currently about $10 million over the luxury-tax threshold for this season and could pay a similar dollar-for-dollar penalty with a commitment of more than $75 million for only nine players on their 2009-10 payroll.
Next season, Kobe Bryant is scheduled to earn $23 million, Pau Gasol will earn $16.5 million and Bynum will earn about $12.5 million in the first year of his extension.
Bryant, 30, can terminate his contract in July and re-sign for up to five years and $135 million. Gasol, 28, is under contract through 2010-11.
Bynum’s extension could spell the eventual end of Lamar Odom’s tenure with the team.
Odom is in the last season of his contract, and the Lakers deferred until next summer to make a decision on him when the team was asked by Odom’s representatives for a contract extension this off-season.
Odom, who turns 29 next week, is making $11.4 million this season. (His salary-cap number is $14.1 million because of an up-front trade kicker when he was acquired by the Lakers in 2004.)
Bynum came on strong last January, when he averaged 17.3 points and 12.3 rebounds in six games before his season ended because of a bone bruise in his left knee and brief dislocation of the kneecap.
He had cartilage debris removed and rough spots smoothed out on the underside of his kneecap in a surgical procedure in May.
He has continually declared his knee to be pain-free and has worn a black brace on the knee as a precaution this season. “Everything’s been fine,” he said after exhibition play.
Through it all, Bynum has maintained a level head, insisting that contract talks weren’t bothering him.
“Not really, because if I go out and play the way I’m supposed to, it’ll take care of itself,” he said recently.
Bynum turned in a solid effort Wednesday against the Clippers, compiling 12 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots in 25 minutes.
“At the end of the day, Andrew told his agent, ‘I want to get a deal done. I want to be a Laker,’ ” said Bynum’s brother, Corey Thomas. “I believe he’s a max basketball player and his agent thinks so too. But the way Kobe has led this team the past two years, why would Andrew want to go anywhere else?
“There’s something very, very special about this team and I think he felt, ‘Hey, why fight over five or six million dollars when you could have five championship rings?’ ”