DALLAS — The last time Kobe Bryant stepped foot here, he unleashed a 38-point barrage against the Mavericks that provided a perfect retort to owner Mark Cuban suggesting the Lakers should use the amnesty provision on him.
“Amnesty that,” Bryant then tweeted.
It remains to be seen whether Bryant will fire off any similar barbs through 140 characters. But Bryant had plenty to say about the business of basketball, strongly defending the Lakers granting him a two-year $48.5 million extension last year while still rehabbing his left Achilles tendon.
“Did I take a discount? Yeah,” Bryant said. “Did I take a discount as much as fans want me to? No. Is it a big enough discount to help us be a contender? Yeah. What we tried to do is be in a situation where we take care of the player and the player takes care of the organization enough to put them in a championship predicament.”
Plenty of rebuttals await considering the Lakers (3-9) have opened the 2014-15 season with their worst start in L.A. franchise history. But even with Bryant’s extension, the Lakers still offered max contracts to LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. The Lakers offered the most money to Pau Gasol, who chose the Chicago Bulls because he wanted to join a championship contending team. The Lakers gave generous raises to Nick Young (four years, $21 million) and Jordan Hill (two years, $18 million).
But Bryant addressed this issue considering Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki took a steep hometown discount this summer, a three-year deal worth $25 million.
“I think that means he’s not playing in Los Angeles,” Bryant said. “I think it’s not about the winning portion of it. That’s where players get themselves in a lot of trouble. That might offend some people but I’ve played 19 years in the NBA so I don’t care. It’s about the business of basketball. For a lot of writers and fans, they have a tough time distinguishing the two. This is a business. You have to look at the individuals into what they generated, the market that they generated revenue. You cant’ separate them, People have a hard time separating that stuff. From a business perspective you have to take that into account. As a player you have to try to as a player be in situations where you can have a win win for everybody.”
Nowitzki’s paycut opened up room for the Mavericks to acquire Chandler Parsons from Houston and Tyson Chandler from New York during free agency. San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan also took a paycut, signing a three-year, $30 million deal that expires this summer. That assured the Spurs retained veterans Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, while having complementary pieces such as Kawhi Leonard and a bench that averaged a league-leading 44.3 points per game.
But Bryant considers those examples as comparing apples-to-oranges. Bryant also laughed when told Cuban has argued against max contracts, saying, “you have to consider the source.”
“It’s the popular thing to do. Players take less, blah, blah, blah,” Bryant said. “But I think it’s a big coup for the owners to put players in situations where public perception puts pressure on them to take less money,. If you don’t, then you get criticized for it and all this stuff. It’s absolutely brilliant. But I’m not going for it. I know the new head of the players association isn’t going for it either.”
The NBA and its players association agreed to a near 50-50 split in basketball revenue during the 2011 lockout. So how should the players union respond during the 2017 offseason considering the NBA’s record-breaking nine-year television contract with ESPN and Turner Broadcasting is worth a reported $24 billion?
“We’ll work to change that,” Bryant said. “We’ll work to change that, just for the challenge of changing it.”
But Bryant stressed he won’t be around for that, maintaining he won’t play beyond his contract that expires following the 2015-16 season.
“I wont be playing,” Bryant said. “I wont be playing.”