Thanks to Bryant’s payroll-devouring $48.5-million contract over the next two seasons, the Lakers will have little financial wiggle room to upgrade their roster.
They’ll be able to add one maximum-salaried player, but not two, which could make the difference between being a middle-of-the-pack playoff team and a title contender.
This could have been avoided had Bryant, who will have made roughly $280 million in salary for his career by the end of this season, been willing to take the approach of Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, who accepted large pay cuts in recent years to give their teams more resources to surround them with talent.
Instead, Bryant had to go all Gordon Gekko, apparently needing a few more yachts to water ski behind.
Bryant said he wanted the Lakers to improve appreciably by next season, which seems unlikely given that LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony could very well opt to stay with their current teams. That would leave an underwhelming class of unrestricted free agents headed by Luol Deng, Kyle Lowry, Marcin Gortat and Emeka Okafor, with the Lakers believed to have already crossed Lowry off their shopping list.
The Lakers have to be careful about overspending this summer so that they can remain in play for the more attractive haul of free agents that will be available in 2015. Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol, Rajon Rondo, Roy Hibbert, Goran Dragic, David West and DeAndre Jordan could all hit the open market at that time.
Bryant’s $25-million salary for the 2015-16 season, when he will be 37, ensures that the Lakers will be able to add only one top-tier free agent, preventing the formation of their next Big Three and decreasing the likelihood of Bryant winning a sixth championship ring.
On the day he signed what will likely be his final NBA contract in November, Bryant sent out a tweet that included the hashtag “ringsbeforeall.”
With one exception, of course.
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