Kobe Bryant signed his two-year, $48.5 million extension Monday morning, so by the time my plane touched down late Tuesday, the irrational debate and cheap analysis was kicking into a higher gear among Lakers Nation.
This group is one of my favorites because its members live in a self-contained universe where there are only two types of humans – those who are Lakers and those who want to be Lakers.
In the first 24 hours here, I read or heard about scenarios that had LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook coming to the Lakers, although one written report quoted an anonymous Lakers source saying speculation on James migrating to the West Coast was “a pipe dream.”
LA, however, is the land of pipe dreams. It’s where pipe dreams become reality. So why not James? Why not Durant, Westbrook or, hell, maybe all three.
Suddenly in LA, however, there is concern about the assumed migration of great players because Bryant signed a monstrous, cap-stifling contract that may keep one or more of those star players from coming to Hollywood.
Here’s how bad it is: Bryant’s contract will now take up such a large portion of the payroll that the Lakers may be able to sign only . . . Carmelo Anthony?
See why Lakers fans are so much fun? Carmelo as not only the savior, but the new flag-bearer of Lakers greatness? Ah, yes. Ignore the past. When Carmelo arrives here, he will learn how to pass. Don’t forget. Magic Johnson played here.
But the yearning for Anthony was not as fascinating as the back and forth between Bryant and those who would doubt him – the majority, presumably, Lakers fans. Most of the analysis in print and on Twitter was critical of the Lakers and Bryant, pointing out that LA can now have only two max players instead of three with Bryant taking up approximately one-third of the future cap.
That certainly ignited the fans, many of whom pointed out that a star like Tim Duncan accepted just over $10 million this season to give the Spurs cap flexibility.
The notion that Bryant – or any player – should take less money in order to create the possibility that another player may sign with the team is faulty. Mark Cuban tried reducing payroll in Dallas, dismantling the 2011 championship team in order to create cap space and attract one or more premium free agents to play alongside Dirk Nowitzki. Cuban struck out for two years until finally getting Monta Ellis and Jose Calderson this summer. But three years? In Lakers’ time, those are dog years.
It is obvious that if Bryant had taken $10 million less per year, the Lakers would have had more money to get more players. But this is again slippery slope territory. Bryant was quick to point out the hypocrisy of such a view, and he is correct.