Lakers guard Kobe Bryant signs three-year extension
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant signed a three-year, $84-million extension Friday, staying under contract through 2013-14 for slightly less than the maximum amount.
Bryant, who will be eight weeks shy of his 36th birthday when his new contract ends, could have signed for between $86 million and $91 million, depending on salary-cap figures to be determined after next season.
Bryant, 31, has one more year on his contract for $24.8 million before the extension kicks into gear. He will earn $26 million in 2011-12, $28 million in 2012-13 and $30 million in 2013-14. He does not have any opt-outs, unlike his current contract, which had an opt-out after last season and an opt-out after this season that is now void.
With Bryant’s new deal, the Lakers have their most important players under contract for several years.
Pau Gasol signed a three-year extension in December, also staying under contract through 2013-14. Ron Artest is signed through 2013-14 and Lamar Odom through 2012-13, as is Andrew Bynum if the team picks up his $16.1-option for that season.
“We’re happy that we’ll be able to keep the core of our team intact for the foreseeable future,” General Manager Mitch Kupchak said Friday. “We’re excited about the future.”
The discussions with Bryant took place casually for months, the sides eventually meeting a deadline of completing a deal before the playoffs.
“I always felt that Kobe would sign the extension and end his career as a Laker,” Kupchak said. “I never felt any differently throughout the whole negotiation. I always got the feel from his representative and from Kobe that yes, this is where he wanted to be for the remainder of his career. In fact, I’ve had that feeling now for several years.”
Then Kupchak paused.
“I didn’t have it four years ago, but I had it the last two or three years,” he said, drawing laughter from a crowded news conference two hours before the Lakers’ game Friday against Utah.
Kupchak was referring to Bryant’s much-publicized trade demand in 2007.
Kupchak said that Lakers owner Jerry Buss was “ecstatic” to get the deal done.
“Kobe is one of the players that, although you’re making a huge commitment, I think it’s something that you have to do and you’re happy to do it and you’re glad when it’s done,” he said.
Coach Phil Jackson said the Bryant news would not affect his thoughts on whether to return next season.
“It doesn’t change my decision at all,” he said.
Jackson, in the last year of a contract paying him $12 million this season, definitely has the support of Kupchak.
“I personally sat down with Phil and indicated I’d love to have him back as a coach,” Kupchak said. “He obviously does a wonderful job. But it really falls into his lap and his timeline.”
Always a Spartan
Lakers reserve guard Shannon Brown said he knew who would win the NCAA tournament semifinal Saturday between Michigan State and Butler.
“Michigan State, no doubt,” said the former Spartans standout. “We’ve got a way of making things happen. I don’t think anybody thought Michigan State would make it this far. It’s amazing.”
The basket pads at Friday’s game were green because of the NBA’s “Green Week,” meant to generate awareness about protecting the environment.
The Lakers will wear green wristbands and socks Sunday against San Antonio.