Signing Kobe Bryant to an extension would be expensive for the Lakers --… (Michael Conroy / Associated…)
The Lakers lost Kobe Bryant for most of the game against the Indiana Pacers and still managed to win while Bryant sat on the sidelines getting electro-stimulation treatment on his sprained ankle.
It was arguably the team's best win of the season, but with Bryant hinting his retirement could be near, it shows the Lakers are not ready for life without their All-Star guard.
At 34 years old, Bryant is playing some of the best basketball of his career. He couldn't keep himself from suiting up in a Pacers game he had no business playing in. How is he going to let the NBA go at the age of 35?
"If I was the Lakers," wrote former Times columnist Mark Heisler for LakersNation.com, "I'd be looking for a price they can afford in this repeating luxury tax penalty era that he could accept for two or three more seasons -- and talking to him about it now."
Bryant will earn $30.5 million next season. He'll be eligible for an extension in July for up to $32 million in the first year.
If that's the amount Bryant gets -- and Dwight Howard re-signs -- the Lakers will be paying $54 million for two of the 15 players they can have under contract.
That's difficult math for the franchise, given the luxury tax penalties that escalate significantly over the next couple of years, but letting Bryant go too early could be far more costly.
The end might be coming for Bryant, but the Lakers need to find a way to delay the inevitable for as long as possible.
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