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Kobe a long shot to leave Lakers?

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#1 magicbalala245


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Posted October 14, 2008 - 03:39 PM

Sports Illustrated

Before the anticipated 2010 free-agent bonanza that could include LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Amaré Stoudemire and Chris Bosh, there could be one free agent on the market who, if he chooses to switch teams, would significantly shift the balance of power.

I'm talking about Kobe Bryant.

It seems like only yesterday that Bryant had the city of Los Angeles holding its collective breath while he debated his future. In July 2004, Bryant was the subject of daily speculation as he kept the Lakers waiting while flirting with the Bulls, Nuggets, Knicks and (gulp) crosstown Clippers as a free agent.

In the end, Bryant elected to remain a Laker, a decision that initially looked dubious -- with the lottery season in 2005, the back-to-back first-round exits in '06 and '07 and the will-he-or-won't-he-be-traded saga last offseason -- but now has paid major dividends, as the Lakers are the defending conference champions and a favorite to win the NBA title.

But as Los Angeles prepares to begin a training camp that will be filled with more love than Woodstock (Kobe will praise Andrew Bynum, Bynum will praise Pau Gasol and Phil Jackson will praise everybody), there will be a rather large elephant lurking in the room: After the season, the 30-year-old Bryant can opt out of the final two years of his contract (worth $47.8 million) and become a free agent.

"He's going to opt out," an Eastern Conference general manager said. "He's going to want to see what the market is. He's going to want to flex his muscles."

Even if Kobe does opt out, however, very few executives believe that he would leave the Lakers, who would be able to offer him a six-year deal worth about $150 million.

"He will definitely re-sign," an East personnel executive said. "This isn't five years ago. He's the unquestioned leader of an elite team and he's playing in a city that loves him."

If Bryant were determined to sign elsewhere, he would face a limited market. Based on a projected 2009-2010 salary cap of $61-62 million, and the potential renouncing of certain players, only a handful of teams will have the cap space to make Bryant a realistic offer (in addition to the overseas option):

• Oklahoma City: No chance. The Thunder could have $25 million in cap space next year, but they have a young roster and are primed for rebuilding. It's hard to see Bryant's leaving a contender in Los Angeles for a team in transition in a much smaller market.

• Portland: Intriguing but doubtful. To be sure, adding Bryant to an up-and-coming team built around Greg Oden, LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy is exciting to consider. But the Trail Blazers have made a commitment to Roy, the 2007 Rookie of the Year, at shooting guard, and though they could conceivably shift him to either point guard or small forward, it's not something they are eager to do.

Moreover, a sizable chunk of the Blazers' cap space depends on the future of Darius Miles, who signed with Boston last month after missing the last two seasons with a knee injury. If Miles plays 10 games with the Celtics this season, his $9 million salary -- which the Blazers cut from the books after getting a rare career-ending injury exception for Miles -- will count against Portland's salary cap. Though the Blazers could have some $15 million in cap space even with Miles, it might not be enough to entice Bryant.

• Memphis: See Oklahoma City. While the Grizzlies have the potential for about $20 million in cap space, Bryant isn't about to leave L.A. for a chance to tutor O.J. Mayo and Co.

• Europe: The summer buzz centered on the tantalizing possibility that a first-tier NBA star like Bryant could be lured to Europe by a $50 million annual salary. "Fifty million is a little ridiculous," the East general manager said. "Thirty million is probably the limit. But if that's a $30 million net [after taxes] salary for one season, that's the same as a $60 million contract in the U.S."

While Bryant seems like the perfect candidate for a European excursion -- he lived in Italy for seven years as a youngster, speaks fluent Italian and has extraordinary worldwide appeal -- it's doubtful that he would seriously consider a move. More than any player in the NBA today, Bryant defines his career by championships (he has three). And if he remains with the Lakers, he has a legitimate shot to make a run at Michael Jordan's total of six rings.

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#2 Guest_Nissan_*


Posted October 14, 2008 - 03:42 PM

It's no big deal... everybody knows he's going to opt out because he wants more money.

#3 LALDynasty


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Posted October 14, 2008 - 03:54 PM

Nissan can we give KB more money?
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#4 lakerswiz


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Posted October 14, 2008 - 04:05 PM

It's speculation.

#5 Guest_Nissan_*


Posted October 14, 2008 - 04:06 PM

Nissan can we give KB more money?


The Lakers can offer him around $150M this summer.

No team in Europe is going to offer him $150M.

#6 purple_and_gold_fever


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Posted October 14, 2008 - 04:11 PM

trade him...

#7 LALDynasty


    Kobe Bryant 2010 Finals MVP

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Posted October 14, 2008 - 04:30 PM

trade him...

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#8 SaintNicholasVanExel


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Posted October 14, 2008 - 04:44 PM

We already know he's opting out... anyone would do it.

#9 phifedogg76


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Posted October 14, 2008 - 05:15 PM

i guess we'll see if he holds the organization hostage ... i wish he'd take a little paycut, for the benefit of the team but he is kobe the great so i dont know
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#10 GCMD


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Posted October 14, 2008 - 07:48 PM

I don't think Kobe will max out the 150 mil possible.

If anything, I can see him going a blanket 20 mil per over the next 5-6 years.

Edited by GCMD, October 14, 2008 - 07:48 PM.


Trust in Mitch

#11 West Coast

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Posted October 14, 2008 - 07:54 PM

It will be interesting. Kobe is at the prime of his career and has one big contract already. I would love to think that he would take a pay cut to get some more players to LA, but who knows. We'll have to wait and see.

#12 fido


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Posted October 14, 2008 - 09:54 PM

phifedog - a "little" pay cut won't help out the team to the extent that they could suddenly sign a top flight free agent. He deserves to cash in and he will - guaranteed. There will be no holding the Lakers hostage - this is someone with loyalty, this isn't Shaq.

Face it SI - there's no drama around the Lakers. This is a content bunch that gets along.

Time to go elsewhere for your National Enquirer style of sports writing.

Covering controversy is fine - if it exists. Its when journalism begins to manufacture news from a lack of news that it becomes shoddy, juvenile and plain sad.

Kobe may indeed opt out ,but it'll be to re-negotiate his deal with the Lakers. The notion that Kobe needs to see what the market is out there is completely hilarious. I'm sure he's well aware that the free agent for the best player on the planet is fairly big.

If there's nothing to report on SI, then don't. (Did Hartman write this article?)

#13 ReaListik



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Posted October 14, 2008 - 10:33 PM

I don't see Kobe going elsewhere. He's got a legit shot at 5-7 more rings if all goes well on this team.
"We are the goodest" - Shaq during an interview on ESPN.

#14 Domo


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Posted October 14, 2008 - 11:17 PM

Yeah he'll opt out so we resign him to another big contract, not much news.

#15 netlord


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Posted October 15, 2008 - 02:11 AM

he ain't going nowhere.

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