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PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2017 6:42 am    Post subject: , team captains and media, was injured Reply with quote

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Lakers signed Kobe Bryant to a two-year contract extension Monday, securing the fourth-leading scorer in NBA history into his 20th season with the franchise. Bryant hasnt played this season while recovering from surgery on his torn Achilles tendon in April, but the Lakers didnt wait to renew their commitment to the five-time NBA champion before he got anywhere close to the free-agent market next summer. Bryant inked the deal with owner Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak at his side in agent Rob Pelinkas office moments before the Lakers left for an East Coast road trip. Bryant, Buss and Kupchak all had repeatedly stated Bryant wouldnt leave his only NBA home. The 35-year-old guard quickly tweeted a picture of his signature with the hashtag: Laker4Life. "This is a very happy day for Lakers fans and for the Lakers organization," Kupchak said in a statement. "Weve said all along that our priority and hope was to have Kobe finish his career as a Laker, and this should ensure that that happens." Bryant has spent more than half of his life playing for the Lakers, and if he fulfills his new contract, he will break John Stocktons record of 19 seasons with one NBA franchise. But Kobes legacy in L.A. already is secure: No less than Magic Johnson and Jerry West have declared Bryant the franchises greatest player, given his fistful of championship rings and his consistent brilliance while scoring more points than anybody in a Lakers uniform. Although Bryant is taking a pay cut from his $30.45 million salary this season, Kobe and the Lakers didnt exactly agree to a hometown discount, either. ESPN reported the deal is worth $48.5 million, keeping Kobe among the NBAs highest-paid players. Some fans grumbled online that the contract will limit the Lakers flexibility in the free-agent market next summer, clouding their starry-eyed dreams of signing Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James. Other fans approved the payout as a reward for an iconic player who still ranked among the NBAs most dangerous scorers before his injury. Bryant and 39-year-old point guard Steve Nash are the only players signed to significant contracts for next season with the Lakers, who have been anticipating a major roster restructuring in 2014 ever since Dwight Howard fled town in July. Even if the Lakers waived the oft-injured Nash under a special provision limiting his salary cap hit, Bryant would eat up roughly a third of their room under the projected cap before anybody else joins him next season. Bryant returned to practice earlier this month, and his return to the court seems imminent, although he isnt rushing back from perhaps the most significant injury of his career. Bryant said last week that he could adjust his game and contribute something to the Lakers right now, but he wants to make a full return when he finally steps on the court for his 18th NBA season. "Its definitely something where youre kind of champing at the bit a little bit, but weve come so far," Bryant said after practice last week. "I want to make sure, we all do, when you step out there youre ready to go the long haul, and (the injury) isnt something that continues on." Coach Mike DAntoni has said Bryant can return whenever Kobe says hes ready. The Lakers are surviving in his absence, improving to 7-7 on Sunday night by beating Sacramento for their third straight victory. "Ive been extremely proud of the way weve competed," Bryant said. The contract is another milestone in Bryants remarkable career. He was a 17-year-old high schooler when the Lakers acquired him after the Charlotte Hornets chose him in the first round of the 1996 draft, and Lakers fans watched as he evolved into one of the most dominant scorers in NBA history, dazzling fans with his offensive inventiveness and drawing critics for his ball-dominating style of play. Bryant won three championships with Shaquille ONeal from 2000-02 and added two more with Pau Gasol in 2009 and 2010, winning the NBA finals MVP award after each of those titles. He won his only NBA MVP award in 2008 and his scoring titles in 2006 and 2007, also earning 15 selections to the All-Star game -- with four MVP awards from the showcase -- and two Olympic gold medals with the U.S. national team. Bryant hasnt given up hope of adding a sixth championship ring to his trophy case, even while the Lakers struggle to keep up with the NBAs best teams. With his immediate future secure, Bryant can focus on getting back to full strength on his injured leg. 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