10:49am: Bryant’s extension will be worth $48MM over two years, according to ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard (via Twitter). Shelburne tweets that the annual salaries will be $23.5MM in 2014/15 and $25MM in ’15/16. That should still leave the Lakers with enough room for a max free agent next summer, though it’ll be a tight fit.
10:43am: According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles (via Twitter), Kobe’s new deal will make him the highest-paid player in the NBA over the next two seasons. The exact figures still aren’t known, but according to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times (via Twitter), the extension will be worth between $40-50MM.
10:26am: The Lakers and Kobe Bryant have reached an agreement on a contract extension, the team announced today in a press release. The deal will keep Kobe off the free agent market in 2014, extending his contract by two years, according to the team.
“This is a very happy day for Lakers fans and for the Lakers organization,” said GM Mitch Kupchak in a statement. “We’ve said all along that our priority and hope was to have Kobe finish his career as a Laker, and this should ensure that that happens.”
We heard in September that Bryant and the Lakers had yet to begun discussing an extension, but those negotiations were expected to happen at some point before Kobe’s contract expired. A month ago, executive VP Jim Buss vowed that the longtime Lakers star wouldn’t get to free agency, so the team made good on that promise.
When I examined Kobe as an extension candidate earlier this month, I predicted that he’d sign a two- or three-year extension at some point after he returned from his Achilles injury. The fact that the Lakers completed the deal before he appeared in a game this season suggests that the team believes he made a full recovery.
While Kobe would be eligible for a salary worth north of $32MM in the first year of his new deal, he almost certainly agreed to a pay cut from this year’s $30MM+ salary. The two-year contract will cut into the Lakers’ projected cap space for next summer, but depending on the annual cap hit for the extension, the club should still have plenty of room to pursue free agents.