Not long after Kobe Bryant was injured, a lot of people started wondering out loud whether the Los Angeles Lakers should use their amnesty clause on Kobe Bryant, shedding the gigantic $30 million price tag off their salary cap figure for next season. The thought was it's Kobe's final year of his current deal and he likely wouldn't play next season, so there's no harm in cutting him lose to save the team $30 million in cap space not to mention another $50 million or so in luxury tax penalty. The luxury tax penalty is something to consider to be sure, but waiving Kobe Bryant would do very little by itself to improve the Lakers' on the court product next season.
According to Mark Deeks of ShamSports, the Lakers have $79 million committed in salary next season. So cutting Bryant's $30 million would move them all the way down to $49 million. However, that figure does not include the max contract that Dwight Howard will command in free agency. That number will be north of $20 million a year and Howard is not giving the Lakers any sort of home town discount. If the Lakers can't get their payroll under $70 million a year including Howard's contract, then they'll only be able to use a $3 million a year mid-level exception instead of a $5 million a year. The Lakers also aren't going to sign any other long term deals that's going to screw with the massive amounts cap space they have for the summer of 2014, AKA potentially the summer of LeBron, Wade and Bosh 2.0 (not mention possibly Carmelo Anthony).
The other problem for the Lakers is the 6-9 month recovery time doctors gave once Bryant went through surgery. This means he could be back by the start of the season and under this time table would be back probably after the All-Star break. Why would the Lakers risk Bryant, the ultra competitor he is, signing with someone like the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks or even worse, a Western Conference contender, to try to win a title? They wouldn't, especially because under the amnesty provision they wouldn't be allowed to re-sign him until the following summer.
What's more likely is that the Lakers will try to move Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, who aren't great fits in D'Antoni's system with ball dominant Bryant (though Gasol was very effective in the games leading up to Bryant's injury). They could also use their amnesty clause on Metta World Peace, who amazingly is scheduled to make $7.7 million next season. But cutting Kobe Bryant is not only a terrible PR move, but also wouldn't allow them to improve their product on the court next season either. Bryant's not going anywhere and really, isn't that the way both Laker fans and Laker haters want it?
Photo: Washington Post