Bynum near deal?

The Lakers and Andrew Bynum are close to an agreement on a three-season contract extension worth $42 million, according to a report this morning on ESPN.com. Bynum is signed through the end of this season, and is eligible for one of those so-called max deals. In his case, it could be worth more than $80 million over five seasons.

However, the Lakers are believed to be concerned enough about Bynum’s season-ending left kneecap injury last Jan. 13 to be wary of such a long-term commitment. The two sides face a Friday deadline to complete an extension. If it can’t be done, then they must wait until next summer, when Bynum can become a restricted free agent.

There’s been little public comment on the matter. Bynum’s agent, David Lee, traveled from New York to meet with GM Mitch Kupchak almost two weeks ago. Lee said then that the sides were “miles apart.” But as often happens, the negotiations take on an added sense of urgency when a deadline approaches. If the ESPN.com story is accurate, then that appears to be what’s happened.

If Bynum were to become a restricted free agent next July 1, then he could sign with another team but the Lakers would have the right to simply match the other club’s offer and retain his services. Bynum also could re-sign with the Lakers. Or he could accept a one-season qualifying offer from the Lakers and become an unrestricted free agent after the 2009-10 season.

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