Kobe ‘not going for’ discount deals
Kobe Bryant considers the public pressure for longtime NBA stars to take hometown-discount deals, such as Dirk Nowitzki’s contract, “a big coup” for NBA owners.
“It’s the popular thing to do,” Bryant said after the Los Angeles Lakers’ shootaround prior to Friday night’s 140-106 loss to Nowitzki’s Dallas Mavericks. “The player takes less, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. 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. Because if you don’t, then you get criticized for it.
“It’s absolutely brilliant, but I’m not going for it. I know the new head of the players’ association ain’t going for it, either.”
Bryant, 36, agreed to a two-year, $48.5 million extension with the Lakers last season, when he was recovering from a torn Achilles tendon. The deal is for less than Bryant was eligible to make on a maximum contract but still makes him the highest-paid player in the league.
Nowitzki, 36, re-signed with the Mavs this summer for $25 million over three years, taking far less than his market value to leave Dallas owner Mark Cuban enough salary-cap space to make roster upgrades.
“I wanted to be on a good team,” Nowitzki said after scoring 23 points in 21 minutes during the Mavs’ rout Friday. “I wanted to compete my last couple of years at the highest level. Ever since after the championship, we had a couple of rough years. We missed the playoffs one year, were the eighth seed twice I think, so that was really the main decision.
“I wanted to play at a high level my last couple years, and it kind of worked out with getting Parsons, with getting Tyson back here. We feel like we’ve got a good group, and hopefully we can make it work.”
What does Bryant think about Nowitzki, who has never used an agent, taking such a steep hometown discount?
“I think it means he’s not playing in Los Angeles,” Bryant said with a laugh.
Cuban said Nowitzki’s knowledge of the collective bargaining agreement and his desire to play for a contender were the primary factors in determining the size of his contract, not public perception.
“First of all, not every player in the NBA, not every owner in the NBA is motivated purely by money,” said Cuban, adding that fans put pressure on owners to spend every penny possible or be labeled as cheap. “If you look at our ticket prices, how many times have we lowered them? How many times have we paid the luxury tax? How many times have I told you guys, ‘I don’t care if we lose money, I want to win’? You know my motivations, and I think Dirk’s motivations are similar.”
Nowitzki, who has made more than $200 million during his career, has said several times that the chance to win a second championship is much more important to him than money during his basketball golden years. The Mavs, whose offseason acquisitions included center Tyson Chandler and small forward Chandler Parsons, are off to a 10-3 start.
Bryant, who had almost $280 million in career earnings entering this season, has won five championships and believes the Lakers can contend again with him as the league’s highest-paid player. The Lakers, who are off to a 3-10 start had enough cap space to pursue Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh in free agency this summer but weren’t able to sign either player.
“This is where players get themselves in a lot of trouble, which me in my 19th year I really don’t care, so I’ll kind of say what I need to say,” said Bryant, who indicated that he would retire at the end of this contract. “But I think you’ve got to look at the business of basketball. I think for a lot of writers, for a lot of fans, they have a very tough time distinguishing the two.
“This is a business, and you have to look at individuals and what they generate and the market that they’re generating revenue in. And you can’t separate those. People have a hard time separating that stuff. From a business perspective, you have to take that stuff into account and you have to try to, as a player, be in situations where it can be a win-win for everybody.
“So did I take a discount? Yeah. Did I take as big a discount as some of you fans would want me to? No. Is it a big enough discount to help us be a contender? Yeah. So what we try to do is be in a situation where they take care of the player and the player takes care of the organization enough to put us in a championship predicament eventually.”
Bryant addressed some of the same issues before the start of the season, saying at one point that players “are overpaid but so are the owners.”
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