9 Kobe Bryant has been a cornerstone player for the Los Angeles Lakers since he joined the team in 2014.
Now he’ll get his opportunity to make a statement as a free agent, but his contract expires after next season.
The Lakers have been searching for a way to retain Bryant, who has missed the past three seasons due to injuries and a wrist injury.
They could try to keep him as part of a salary-cap overhaul or sign him for a short-term deal, but they’re unlikely to make that offer because they have a cap hold of about $26.4 million this season.
A lot depends on what happens with Kobe Bryant, a man who is expected to be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Is he going to sign with another team, or will he walk away?
Bryant, 38, signed his current deal with the Lakers on June 2, 2017.
He’s had a career-best year this season, averaging 22.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 5.3 assists, and his averages have risen each of the past two seasons.
But his production has also dropped off since the 2013-14 season, when he averaged 23.9 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.
He also missed three games with a strained hamstring in 2016-17.
He returned in 2018-19, averaging 23.4 and 9 rebounds per contest.
He was a restricted free agent in 2018 and signed with the Golden State Warriors in 2019.
The Lakers will try to sign him again this summer, but it’s unclear if he will agree to terms.
Bryant is also an unrestricted unrestricted free agents in 2020.
The Lakers will have $21.9 million in cap space this season and will have to pay him about $6 million to retain him.
If they let him go, they would have about $28 million in salary cap space.
But they can offer him a three-year deal, and he could earn $24 million annually over the next three seasons.
He could be a valuable piece to any team.