It’s been almost a year since Kobe Bryant signed a two-year, $48.5-million contract extension to stay with the Lakers. Debate hasn’t entirely cooled on the heavily scrutinized deal.
Some Lakers fans appreciated the loyalty the Buss family showed in making Bryant the highest-paid NBA player the next two years.
Other fans, however, 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, eating up substantial cap space.
On Friday, Bryant gave his most in-depth opinion on his contract.
“Did I take a discount? Yeah. Did I take as big a discount as some fans would want me to? No,” he said. “Was it a big enough discount to help us be a contender? Yeah.”
The Lakers tried to woo Carmelo Anthony during the off-season, 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 July to sign one player to a maximum contract. When he’s off the books in 2016, they could sign two players to maximum deals under the most modest salary-cap projections.
With the Lakers playing Dallas on Friday night, Bryant was asked about the Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki and San Antonio’s Tim Duncan, two players who took less money to stay with their teams.
“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 averages a league-high 27.5 points a game but is on pace for a career low in accuracy. He is currently shooting 38.6%, almost 7% below his career accuracy coming into this season.
The Lakers (3-9) were off to their worst 10-game start ever but won consecutive road games in Atlanta and Houston to improve their record.