Balancing Loyalty to Kobe Bryant and Weighing Future Is Lakers’ Biggest Task

When it comes to Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers have no good options.

According to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, Bryant and the Lakers haven't begun to negotiate the terms of a contract extension, leaving the futures of player and team totally up in the air.

It's unclear whether Bryant, the guy most responsible for the Lakers' success in the recent past, has a place in their future. And at present, L.A. is facing an unenviable choice about what to do with its iconic star.


Option 1: Re-Sign Him

Bryant is on the final year of his deal and will collect more than $30 million during the 2013-14 season.

That's a lot of money for any player, but it's a particularly huge sum for a guy who may or may not be ready to contribute for the first part of the year.

So if the Lakers decide to offer him an extension anytime soon, they'll do so without a whole lot of proof that Bryant is going to hold up for another two or three seasons. That uncertainty makes an already complicated calculus even more difficult.

How much should the Lakers offer Bryant if they decide they want to retain his services beyond this season? Eat your heart out, LeBron; that's a decision within a decision.

Bryant's not worth what he'll make this year, and from a raw production perspective, he might not be worth half that going forward. Frankly, it's impossible to know what a fair price might be.

But let's just say the Lakers and Bryant agree on a deal that pays him about $15 million annually for the next two or three seasons.

In that scenario, L.A. would probably want to re-sign Pau Gasol at a similarly reduced rate and pursue another free agent on the loaded 2014 market. The Lakers could theoretically pursue a max-salary prospect, but even in the unlikely event that they landed one, they'd have to fill out the rest of the roster with minimum-wage empl...

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