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jayC
04-21-2003, 04:05 PM
Lakers: Bryant to go free in '04
Guard wants to test market

By Howard Beck
Staff Writer


MINNEAPOLIS -- Kobe Bryant's decision to terminate the final year of his contract and become a free agent in 2004 surprised Lakers officials. But they will hold their sense of panic until Bryant formally files the paperwork.

Bryant said Saturday that he intends to exercise his opt-out clause next summer.

"That's the first I've heard of it," general manager Mitch Kupchak said Sunday before the Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves opened their first-round playoff series. "I don't know exactly what it means, other than somebody would like to explore options and have options."

Bryant has two seasons and $28 million left on a six-year deal he signed in 1999. Last summer, the Lakers offered him a three-year, $54.8 million extension -- the maximum allowed -- which would have locked up Bryant through 2008. He has declined to sign it.

"Our feeling is Kobe's our future. A young player who's clearly at the top of his game and is only going to get better and better and better," Kupchak said. "So any remote possibility that he wouldn't be with us is not the kind of thought that we like to endure.

"But we said all along, and I think he would agree, he's very happy in L.A. This is the place where I think he wants to be. And we'll do everything we can do to keep him. And that's all you can do. I think all those things bode well for us. But if we had our druthers, obviously extending the contract a year ago, that's what we'd like to do."

Bryant has given little insight into his decision, other than to say he wants to test the market. The NBA's labor agreement will expire in either 2004 or 2005, and insiders have speculated that Bryant wants to see if the ceiling on salaries will rise. But that is unlikely given the NBA's flat revenues.

Under terms of the current labor deal, the Lakers will be able to offer Bryant the most money and the longest contract next summer -- seven years and $130.2 million. The most another team could offer is $82.5 million over six years.

There are other strong influences that probably will keep Bryant in L.A. His in-laws live in Orange County, and Bryant moved there last year so wife Vanessa could be closer to her family.

However, at least one NBA source who knows Bryant well has said he is waiting to see what direction the Lakers take. Bryant, the source said, wants to be certain of playing on a team that can continue to compete at an elite level for years to come.

TripleDipping
04-21-2003, 04:24 PM
That's a smart move IMO. O'Neal won't be playing at a high level by then and if I'm Bryant I'd be sure as hell not going to carry the team with deadbeats.

Nash13
04-21-2003, 05:06 PM
he's just looking to be overpaid somewhere else so that team won't have enough money to bring in good talent.

Hoopsmeister
04-21-2003, 05:17 PM
<< That's a smart move IMO. O'Neal won't be playing at a high level by then and if I'm Bryant I'd be sure as hell not going to carry the team with deadbeats. >>



Yeah, because then people might stop mentioning him in the same breath with McGrady and Garnett and Duncan--elite players who can carry a team when they don't have the MDP manning the middle.

jayC
04-21-2003, 05:24 PM
Its probably just a ploy for more moola.

Into the stratosphere of possiblities: Duncan and Kobe in 2004.
Parker
Kobe/Manu
Jackson/Bowen
Malik
Duncanetc.

Drbio
04-21-2003, 07:24 PM
I just hope he doesn't look to Dallas. I hate the guy...even if he is one of the best players in the league. He is too much of a drama queen.

LRB
04-21-2003, 07:53 PM
<< There are other strong influences that probably will keep Bryant in L.A. His in-laws live in Orange County >>



Actually thought this might be the kicker on why to move. i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif

ames7
04-21-2003, 08:10 PM
I don't think he'd really leave--just a ploy to scare LA into giving him more money--but I agree w/Doc. I don't think I could cheer for him here. He's a great player, but I hate him.

FilthyFinMavs
04-21-2003, 11:39 PM
Didn't Fin &quot;test&quot; the market about 2 or 3 off seasons ago? I'm sure he would be happy to stay in LA. He is able to run the show and play in front of celebs.

southern_sweets
04-21-2003, 11:42 PM
I agree with Doc. I wouldn't want Kobe in Dallas. He would definatley not fit in. However, it is doubtful he will leave LA anyway.

Subliminal012
04-22-2003, 12:12 AM
if kobe fa's lakers can then give him a 7 year 130 million dollar contract, with him right now they can only offer 3 year 54 million dollar contract. This is mostly why i think he is out there also he wants to make the management to get off their ass and make some moves. But kobe will be a laker 4 life

nowitzki_prophecy
04-22-2003, 07:11 PM
Kobe would never ever,leave LAL,its just another way for him to get the Max out of a new contract.
like what malone is doing right now.

signoftimes
05-14-2003, 03:04 PM
How likely is it for Kobe to Stay in LA if they can't get to the Western Conference finals this year?

mavsfanforever
05-14-2003, 03:16 PM
I would take Kobe in a heartbeat.

TheKid
05-14-2003, 04:27 PM
Normally I would say he wouldn't leave but think about it. He's won three titles, Shaq won't be around forever and as long as he does, Kobe will live in his shadow which I KNOW just furiates him. The guy has tried to show, time and time again that he is the man, that he can be the man and I think that would be JUST what he wants. He would want to go to a team where he CAN be the man and the team would revolve around him.

Phil Jackson even said right now, he knows Kobe is concerned now with making sure he ranks high up there in the history of basketball. I think that's going to be his main focus and it wouldn't surprise me to see him leave at all...