ESPN: In all the frenzy and speculation about the NBA free-agent market of 2010, no one is talking about the fact the reigning MVP can become a free agent this summer — or, if he prefers, join the LeBron-Wade-Bosh-Amare-Dirk-Nash-Yao-Pierce free-agent class in 2010.
Kobe Bryant can forego the final two years on his contract with the Lakers if he decides to opt out after the season. If he passes on that opportunity, he can opt out in 2010. Or if he prefers, he can become a free agent in 2011, when his current contract would expire.
The last time he held this power, in 2004, the franchise shuddered and underwent a radical transformation, with Shaquille O’Neal departing and Bryant remaining as the solitary superstar in the Lakers’ galaxy, but not without giving L.A. heart palpitations. General manager Mitch Kupchak spoke of difficulty sleeping in the days before Bryant signed his new contract with the Lakers.
This time around, there’s no fretting among the Lakers’ fan base, no rumors about possible destinations for Bryant. There’s only one big working assumption that Bryant will simply re-sign with the Lakers.
When reached this week, Kupchak reiterated that view: “I’ve always believed that Kobe should and would end his career in a Laker uniform. I believe that to be his feeling as well.”
Left unsaid is another assumption that is prevalent in the league: that Kobe will become a free agent this summer.