Lakers News: Kobe Bryant's Contract Extension Ensures Long-Term Title Contention

Patrick Clarke@@_Pat_ClarkeCorrespondent INovember 25, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 29:  Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts to someone in the crowd during the game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on October 29, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Kobe Bryant's two-year contract extension with the Los Angeles Lakers ensures that the storied franchise will remain in hot pursuit of the NBA crown for years to come.

The team confirmed the agreement via a press release on Monday. And ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne adds that the two-year extension is worth roughly $48.5 million. 

While there will be ongoing debate as to whether signing Kobe, who is currently recovering from a ruptured Achilles suffered last April, for that amount through the 2015-16 season is worth the risk, there's no denying that when at full strength the Black Mamba gives L.A. a chance to beat anyone.

Even at age 35, we're talking about one of the all-time great scorers capable of taking over a game and sinking big shots down the stretch. 

Before going down last spring, Bryant was averaging 27.3 points per game on 46 percent shooting from the floor. He was also averaging a career-high six assists per game in Mike D'Antoni's offense. 

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 8: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots against DeMar DeRozan #10 of the Toronto Raptors at Staples Center on March 8, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downl
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Although the Lakers are off to a sluggish 7-7 start this season without Bryant, they are only two wins back of the fourth-place Clippers and there's a lot to like about L.A.'s current roster. Veteran 7-footer Pau Gasol is averaging a double-double following a disappointing 2012-13 campaign, and center Jordan Hill has become a factor on the glass and is a big reason why the Lakers rank seventh in the NBA in rebounding through the first month of the season.

Meanwhile, the man filling in for Kobe in the back court, Jodie Meeks is lighting it up, shooting nearly 52 percent from the floor overall and 47 percent from downtown. 

With players like Hill and Meeks gaining confidence in Kobe's absence, the potential for the future is much brighter than it seems at first. 

When he does return, Kobe's talent, experience and, above all, intensity are sure to set the tone for the Lakers. While his leadership style hasn't always been the most productive, you can bet that Kobe will possess an unrivaled sense of urgency as he enters the twilight of his playing career. 

Plus, the Lakers don't rebuild like other franchises around the league. Instead, L.A. retools, as evidenced by Kobe's extension. Hollywood is an appealing place for marquee free agents and the Lakers have made it very clear that money is no object when it comes to pursuing championship banners. 

Carmelo Anthony is one star in particular who the Lakers could target next summer. Anthony has already announced that he wants to test the free-agent market after this season, and with Kobe locked in for two more years, perhaps he can lure Melo out West. 

Signing Melo or another star to team with Bryant and the Lakers' young talent would instantly give L.A. credibility in the Western Conference. But without Kobe's future secured, the Lakers would have a much more difficult time convincing big-name free agents to sign.

Extending Kobe through 2016 is a much smarter move than the alternative, which would have been to let him walk at season's end. Though the price tag is hefty, it beats the backup plan, which would have guaranteed a rough few years for the Lakers. But now, L.A. has a bridge to keep the team in title contention from now until the new era begins with another core of stars. 

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