UPDATE: Tuesday, Nov. 26 at 5:55 pm EST by Adam Fromal
When Kobe Bryant spoke to the media on Tuesday, he made it pretty clear that his contract negotiations weren't negotiations at all. The Lakers knew what they wanted going into the meetings with the Mamba, and the result was a short temporal gap between sitting down and standing up.
Kobe: "The only number that I saw was the number that I agreed to."— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) November 26, 2013
It's also worth noting that the deal was made before Kobe played a single game. On the heels of the Derrick Rose injury, this is a big deal.
Kobe: "It makes me want to run thru a wall for them" -- On getting ext without playing a game post injury— janis carr (@janiscarr) November 26, 2013
Of course, leave it to Kobe to provide ambiguous updates about his own injury:
Kobe on his return: "I had a really hard workout today." He's ready to "come back soon."— TWC SportsNet (@TWCSportsNet) November 26, 2013
Kobe: "much closer. feeling good. much, much stronger." Still doesnt know when he will return "probably weeks."— janis carr (@janiscarr) November 26, 2013
Kobe says he feels he needs a few more practices. Wants to test "explosiveness."— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) November 26, 2013
Kobe said it’s more likely to be “weeks” than “days” before he returns, but that remains to be seen. Needs to get explosiveness back.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) November 26, 2013
Next, he addressed how his play might change a bit upon his return from the Achilles injury:
Kobe on if his athleticism isn't there: "I'm willing and ready to adapt"— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) November 26, 2013
Kobe says he's comfortable with a minutes limit— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) November 26, 2013
The Mamba also confirmed what many of us thought. Namely that this is probably his last contract before retiring as a member of Lakers Nation for life:
Kobe Bryant says this is "probably" his last contract.— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) November 26, 2013
Kobe: "I've been fortunate to be a Laker for life." #Laker4Life— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) November 26, 2013
And what Kobe session would be complete without a not-so-subtle jab at someone? In this case, that someone is David Stern.
This decision "can't be revoked by the NBA," Kobe said, smiling. #chrispaul— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) November 26, 2013
Oh, Kobe. Never change.
--End of update--
Kobe Bryant makes no apologies, so expect none.
The Los Angeles Lakers announced on Monday that they had agreed to a two-year extension with the 35-year-old Mamba, a deal that ESPN's Ramona Shelburne reported is worth $48.5 million:
Kobe's contract will be $23.5 million and $25 million, source tells ESPNLA.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) November 25, 2013
On the heels of signing his new pact, Kobe faced storms of criticism. Nearly $50 million? For an aging, currently injured volume shooter? How selfish. He should've signed for less, given the Lakers a steep discount, enabling them to sign LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony this summer. What gives him the right to demand that much coin?
Turns out he didn't demand anything.
"This was easy," Kobe told Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski. "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."
In fairness to Kobe, he has a point.
If an NBA team came at me with $48.5 million over two years, I'm not going to ask for less. The Association is a business. Players are programmed to capitalize off their monetary value, no matter how old they are. In most cases, they scrap and claw for every penny possible.
But this wasn't a dogfight for Kobe; this was not a contentious negotiation process. It wasn't even a process.
The Lakers apparently came at Kobe with a number, and he accepted that number. If you're going to be mad at someone, look at the Lakers. Blame them for padding Kobe's bank accounts with too much green salad.
Then consider thanking them.
Los Angeles can still afford to make roughly one max-contract offer this summer, giving the team some long-awaited flexibility. Visions of Anthony feeding LeBron, who would then lob one up for Kobe, are dead, but they were never really alive.
Did the Lakers overpay Kobe Bryant?
For the Lakers to have that kind of spending power, Kobe would've had to accept a salary under $6 million in 2014-15. That was never going to happen. As Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding pointed out, there was little to gain by Kobe taking $8 million or less.
"I simply agreed to the offer," Kobe told Woj.
This contract isn't shackling the Lakers' offseason plans. It isn't preventing them from courting anyone special.
Instead, it allows them to keep someone near and dear to their collective heart. It allows them to keep someone even more special.