About the only two things that seem fairly certain are that Kobe Bryant will sign a contract with the Lakers, and LeBron James will not.
Barring an unsuccessful return to the starting lineup, Bryant most certainly will continue his quest for a sixth NBA championship as a member of the Lakers. His signing next summer to an extension will determine just how much cap room the Lakers truly have and which premium talent they can and should pursue after July 1.
Ideally, Bryant would agree to a drastic cut in pay, knowing that his fellow Olympic gold-medal teammates—LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony—wanted to come to L.A. to win championships with him. But, the reason that won't happen is simple: Kobe won't take that big of a pay cut, and LeBron has won titles in Miami, so why leave? Also, Carmelo can get a huge extension ($110 million) should he opt to stay in New York.
Bryant recently told Serena Winters of Lakers Nation that he will sit down and negotiate the best deal he can possibly get with the Lakers. Yet, he must know he won't be up for a raise—not after earning a record $31 million this coming season, coming off a severe Achilles injury and turning 36 next August.
He's "uncomfortable" discussing it now, but Bryant undoubtedly will agree to lesser money as long as he sees a major commitment by management to bring together a championship contender in 2014-15.
As for just who the Lakers can pursue and hope to sign—provided Bryant takes a pay cut of at least 50 percent—the list is actually not as long as one might think.
The Lakers can forget about talented center DeMarcus Cousins. As reported by USA Today, the 23-year-old took himself off the market this week when he signed a four-year, $62 million extension to remain with the Sacramento Kings, where new minority owner Shaquille O'Neal plans to mentor him.
The Lakers need a couple of younger, All-Star caliber players who can challenge in the Western Conference. The transition back to greatness is probably a two-three year process, so impatient Lakers fans may need to take up yoga this season and practice their breathing.