Free Agent Feeding Frenzy

Kurt —  June 30, 2009

Hornets vs. Lakers
The chum has been in the waters for days and as of the stroke of Wednesday (or, 9 p.m. out here on the West Coast) the free agent feeding frenzy begins.

Like an actual feeding frenzy, the water is murky, there are sharks everywhere trying to get their piece, it’s really hard to tell who is doing what and what is actually happening. Rumors and reports will be flying around for the next week, many of them false as agents and teams try to game the system and gain leverage.

Through it all, the Lakers goals are really clear: Sign Trevor Ariza, Lamar Odom and Shannon Brown. My gut read on the market — the Lakers shouldn’t have much trouble getting Brown and Odom back at a price management is comfortable with, while there is some demand for their services it is not out of line with what the Lakers would be willing to pay. Ariza, to me, is the one guy who could get a crazy offer.

But that’s my gut. Here’s what we know (and check back for updates) at the bottom:

• Kobe Bryant has chosen not opt out. It amuses me to read the occasional headline on this saying “Kobe chooses to stay with Lakers” as if that was actually in doubt. This was about business.

What this means is that he will save the Lakers no money next year. His two options are to sign an extension of the existing deal or he can opt out next summer, then re-sign a new Max deal. Rather than me explain it, read Larry Coon’s excellent primer. The bottom line is this — with an opt out next summer he makes about $135 million over five years, with an extension it is $127 million. That $8 million would be doubled by the luxury tax making it a nice savings for the Lakers, but only over the lasts few years of that deal. No money will be saved this year or next.

For the record, I know there are those that think Kobe should take less money for the good of the franchise. I’m not one of them. The money he is paid is but a small share of the money he makes this team because it is Kobe that fills the seats, sells the jerseys, gets people to watch on television. Right now he is the Lakers, and he is making the Buss family a lot of money. He deserves every penny he gets.

• For all the buzz of the free agent market, there seems to be a few teams taking on salary — ones in title contention — and ones shedding it due to the economy. It will be a rich get richer summer. The question is how rich they get in comparison to the current World Champs.

Kurt

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