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Bryant has two years left on his contract, and next season he is scheduled to become just the second player ever to earn more than $30 million in a season. The other was Michael Jordan.

Whether or not you believe the ultra-competitive Bryant will follow through with that retirement plan, his statements seem to be a sign that a contract extension or new contract is no sure thing.

In the wake of the Howard trade, much as been made of the massive luxury-tax bill the Lakers are facing next season if they're able to re-sign the big man. ESPN.com salary cap expert Larry Coon has estimated the Lakers could be on the hook for as much as $85 million just in taxes in 2013-14.

But look a little further, to that 2014-15 season, and you'll see something else: The Lakers' projected payroll is almost completely clear. Only Nash is signed for that season, at $9.7 million, though the Lakers will also be paying about $20 million to Howard if they can re-sign him this coming summer.

In July 2014, Bryant's $30.4 million, Pau Gasol's $19.2 million, Metta World Peace's $7.7 million, Steve Blake's $4 million and Jordan Hill's $3.5 million will come off the books. There likely won't even be any first-round draft picks filling up the cap, either, as the Lakers have already traded their 2013 first-round pick to Phoenix in the Nash deal.

Opposing teams that are making their own long-range free agency plans think they see the Lakers' plan coming into focus. As it stands, L.A. will have enough cap space to add a superstar like James.

"It's not a mistake that all those deals end the same year Kobe's does. They have probably been planning for their next phase for a while," said one general manager. "The Busses and [Lakers GM] Mitch [Kupchak] are always thinking about the next big deal."

No one knows this better than Bryant himself, who has been the beneficiary of the Lakers' aggressive maneuvers for 16-plus years.

"I knew how much the Buss family, Jeanie and so forth, wanted to turn it around," Bryant told CBSSports.com. "I've seen them do it. They rebuilt first by picking up Shaq. ... Then that era was over and they rebuilt again. And now they've rebuilt again. I've seen them do it before."
 

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do better
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Well hey...Wade is going to be close to toast...Bosh isn't enough incentive to stay around..no trade assets and I think limited cap space..LeBron moving won't be a blasphemous idea in two years.

There's also an obvious draw that LA has, they'll still probably have Dwight and whoever else they pick up by then. He might even get Kobe to stick around for another year or two. That would be perhaps the ultimate culmination of this "super-team" era, where after dueling, LeBron helps Kobe get his 6th ring and take out Durant together. But seems way too perfect of a storyline to actually happen.

Dan Gilbert needs to stop being so bitter and play nice too because I still would not be surprised to see LeBron in a Cavs uniform again. I borderline expect it at least for his last couple years, but why not get him as early as possible?
 

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I thought people said LeBron took slightly below the max to get everyone signed? Was that just for the 1st year or two then.
 

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do better
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They all did but with the new cap rules and the other players they just won't have any substantial cap room. All 3 of them expire at once then the roleplayers actually take up the rest of the money.

I remember it was an issue when the big 3 signed they had limited money to sign whoever else they wanted and snuck in Mike Miller and whoever else they happened to the sign. Exceptions have been their best friends but you're not going to bring anyone in on an exception that really makes LeBron want to play with him.

To be honest they might be forced to do something because with the vicious luxury tax there's people that say the Heat are going to have trouble keeping the big 3 even before then.

It looks like Riley takes his shots, destroys, rebuilds and repeats the process.
 

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And Justise For All
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I thought people said LeBron took slightly below the max to get everyone signed? Was that just for the 1st year or two then.
None of them took the max. All three can opt out in 2014.
 

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Uhhhhhh.......cap hit people?
Looks like someone didn't read the article. I don't blame you, I don't read Basel's posts either!
 

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"next season he is scheduled to become just the second player ever to earn more than $30 million in a season"

Thats not the max?
Ummm... better read it again.

Hell I'll spare you the trouble, Kobe will be making over 30 million next year, not Lebron.
 

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Better Call Saul
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People haven't leanred not to dismiss seemingly ridiculous signings/trades regarding the Lakers yet? Were any of y'all paying attention this summer?

I'm not going to come in here and say that it's going to happen, or even that I think it will, but crazier things have happened in this league and two years is an eternity.
 

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Oladipo for the people
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People haven't leanred not to dismiss seemingly ridiculous signings/trades regarding the Lakers yet? Were any of y'all paying attention this summer?

I'm not going to come in here and say that it's going to happen, or even that I think it will, but crazier things have happened in this league and two years is an eternity.
People were calling for Dwight to LA a year before it happened. Lets not act like it was some out of nowhere deal.


Now Nash on the other hand, yea. I was like, what? Nash? Where the **** did that come from?
 

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do better
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A. It's the Lakers who get ahold of damn near every great player of the era they want
B. Who would've called the Big 3 in 2008?

I don't think it's likely either but...let's not just close the door automatically.
 
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