Kobe Bryant has not signed a contract extension. In fact, it might not happen at all this season.
The Lakers guard is under contract until July 2011, but he seems to be in no hurry to extend his deal.
The Lakers have offered Bryant the maximum money he could earn.
On top of the total of $47.8 million he is scheduled to make this season and next, he can sign a three-year extension worth $86 million to $91 million more, depending on NBA salary-cap figures to be determined in 2011.
Such a move would keep him with the Lakers through the 2013-14 sea- son.
But Bryant, 31, was tight-lipped when asked about the absence of an extension.
"I'm not going to talk about it," he said. "I'm not going to let it be a distraction. I'm going to keep my business behind closed doors. If the organization wants to talk about it, they can talk about it."
The Lakers don't. General Manager Mitch Kupchak declined to comment.
Bryant is basically keeping all of his options open.
He might be hoping that the collective-bargaining agreement will be favorable to high-salary players if it is renegotiated in 2011.
On the surface, it looks like a gamble, seeing as how players probably will be asked to make major concessions to owners.
On the other hand, perhaps there's a chance that franchise players will be allowed to make more money than they currently do, with a ceiling being raised on maximum salaries, while rank-and-file players earn less.
There is no deadline for Bryant to sign because an extension can be done at any point during the season in his case.
There was optimism a week after the Lakers won the championship in June, both sides engaging in productive extension discussions.
Several months later, there was still a belief during training camp that something would be signed, but Bryant has not put pen to paper.
Bryant will make $23 million this season and $24.8 million next season, though he can opt out of the final year of his contract next July and become an unrestricted free agent.
With NBA owners clamping down on spending amid a stagnant economy, Bryant probably would have a tough time finding a team to give him maximum money next season.
He probably won't opt out in July, more likely electing to pocket the $24.8 million next season and study the financial landscape during the 2010-11 season, at which point he could still sign the same three-year extension.
Through seven games this season, Bryant is showing few signs of slowing down, averaging 33.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.6 steals in 39.3 minutes a game.
He has taken steps to score more easily, decreasing his drives down the lane and instead parking down low more often, after dedicating part of his off-season to developing more post moves.
He even worked out with former Houston Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon, a noted presence in the post in his playing days.
"It just makes it harder for teams to match up with us," Bryant said. "It's easier for them to double me on the perimeter, but from the post it's nearly impossible with all the shooters we have. It's really easy."