Jim Buss: Kobe deal 'right thing'
In the end, the negotiation went rather quickly. Less than two weeks from beginning to end. Because in the end, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers wanted the same thing: for him to have the opportunity to retire as a Laker.
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"This wasn't something I decided to do; this wasn't something [general manager] Mitch Kupchak decided to do. This was a Buss family decision," Lakers executive vice president of player personnel Jim Buss told ESPNLosAngeles.com on Monday night after the team inked Bryant to a two-year, $48.5 million extension.
"We made him the highest-paid player in the NBA because we felt like it was the right thing to do. This wasn't about what somebody else would pay him or outbidding anyone for him.
"This was to continue his legacy [with the Lakers], our legacy of loyalty to our iconic players."
Buss said the decision to extend Bryant, and keep him as the highest-paid player in the NBA at ages 36 and 37, was an easy one for the Buss family.
"Loyalty is one of the values our dad instilled in us," he said. "It's how he ran the Lakers and how we aspire to continue to run the Lakers. It's what our fans and iconic players deserve."
Bryant also said he didn't have to sweat the negotiations.
"This was easy," he told Yahoo Sports on Monday night. "This wasn't a negotiation. The Lakers made their offer with cap and building a great team in mind while still taking care of me as a player.
"I simply agreed to the offer."
Bryant is coming off the Achilles injury that ended his 2012-13 season and has yet to return to the court. While his debut is imminent and his progress has been steady, it's impossible to know what level he will be at once he finally comes back.
"He doesn't have to prove to us one thing," Buss said. "He's proven everything to us over the last 17 years. We've seen what he's done with broken fingers and torn ligaments. There's no stopping the guy. We have 100 percent faith in him."
Bryant's new contract eats up nearly a third of the Lakers' salary cap next season but would allow them to pursue one of the top free agents next summer or the following one.
SportsNation: Kobe, Lakers agree
Kobe Bryant has signed a two-year extension worth a reported $48.5 million. Is it a good deal for the Lakers? Vote!
Bryant and Steve Nash, 39, are the only players signed to significant contracts for next season with the Lakers, who have been anticipating a major roster restructuring in 2014 since Dwight Howard fled town in July.
Nash is under contract for next season at $9.7 million. The Lakers theoretically could waive him and stretch out that figure over the next three seasons.
Lakers big man Pau Gasol is in the last year of his deal with the Lakers. After saying Tuesday that he was happy for Bryant, Gasol said that he hasn't spoken to the team about a new contract.
"As far as me, or the team which is I'm most concerned about, how can you add other pieces around him and valuable pieces so we can win a title?" Gasol asked.
Would he take a pay cut to make that happen?
"Generally speaking, I guess we all at some point have to make sacrifices. But we'll see," he said. "I don't know what my situation is going to be or the team interest going forward. That hasn't been expressed to me as much as I'm sure it has been expressed to him and shown to him at this point. So, I'm just going to focus on continuing to play."
The team announced Bryant's extension in a news release, saying the signing "should ensure" that Bryant finishes his storied career with the Lakers.
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"This is a very happy day for Lakers fans and for the Lakers organization," Kupchak said in the release. "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.
"To play 20 years in the NBA, and to do so with the same team, is unprecedented, and quite an accomplishment. Most importantly, however, it assures us that one of the best players in the world will remain a Laker, bringing us excellent play and excitement for years to come."
Bryant, who has helped the Lakers win five NBA championships, took to Twitter on Monday morning, posting a photo of his signature on the contract.
Bryant later posted a picture of him signing the contract, along with Buss, Kupchak and agent Rob Pelinka, with the caption, "What an HONOR. #laker4life #lakers #bussfamily#thankyou #extended."