Lakers' four options with Kobe

Can the Lakers build around Kobe's contract? It's tricky, and here's why

Updated: December 9, 2013, 1:37 PM ET
By Larry Coon | ESPN Insider

Kobe BryantCameron Browne/NBAE/Getty ImagesWith Kobe Bryant back, the Lakers' team building options are quite limited.

Everything about Kobe Bryant is polarizing. Why should his contract extension be any different?

This is not to say that locking up the Los Angeles Lakers' superstar was a bad move. The two-year, $48.5 million agreement ensures that the face and cornerstone of the franchise likely will retire a Laker, and also sends a message to potential free agents that the Lakers continue to take care of their own. Nor is there obvious blame, from Bryant's perspective.

"This wasn't a negotiation," Bryant told Yahoo! Sports. "The Lakers made their offer with cap and building a great team in mind while still taking care of me as a player. I simply agreed to the offer."

Bryant stays with the only team he has known as a professional while retaining his status as the league's highest-paid player. He also locks in his value before returning to the court, eliminating any possibility of an Achilles-related setback or loss of athleticism hurting his earning potential.

And in doing so, he willingly absorbed a 23 percent pay cut.

Still, the extension is not without adverse consequences. It is no secret that Bryant, 35, wants a sixth and even a seventh ring before he retires, but this extension takes him farther from that goal. While the Lakers will be able to afford one top-tier free agent next summer -- and that free agent must want to go to L.A. -- it will have little additional spending power to bring in the necessary pieces that would return the team to championship contention. Worse, signing a top-tier player means the Lakers likely will have to say goodbye to current mainstays like Pau Gasol.

Larry Coon is the author of the NBA Salary Cap FAQ.