Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban ruffled some Southern Californian feathers on Friday when, during a local radio appearance, he wondered aloud whether the Los Angeles Lakers should consider using the amnesty provision in the NBA's collective bargaining agreement to shed the contract of Kobe Bryant. While the decision's nearly unthinkable from an image/marketing/public relations perspective, multiple factors — chief among them that Kobe will earn $30.5 million in 2013-14, which is, y'know, a lot — combine to make a fairly reasonable business case for the decision.
While Cuban's comments pointed toward a difficult reality teams paying exorbitant sums to aging players will face in the new NBA economy, they also, as my colleague Eric Freeman wrote Friday, served to tweak the Lakers and their fans ahead of a Sunday showdown between the Lakers and Mavericks. Then again, that might not have been the wisest course of action; we all know that old saying about poking a mamba with a stick, right?
Bryant finished with a game-high 38 points in 38 minutes — 13 for 21 from the field, 4 for 5 from 3-point range, 8 for 10 from the free-throw line — to go with 12 rebounds and seven assists (albeit with five turnovers) in outdueling Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki (30 points on 19 shots, 13 rebounds, three steals) and pushing L.A. to a 103-99 win on Sunday afternoon. Afterward, Bryant took to Twitter to offer an all-time "I told you so," much to the delight of purple-and-gold backers:
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) February 24, 2013
In a season that's been packed with challenges and false starts, with his team seeming to follow every bit of progress with a step or two backward, you can forgive Bryant — one of the most famously competitive players in recent memory, the kind of dude who never needs additional fuel for his internal fire but won't ever turn his nose up at some bulletin-board motivation — deciding to tag the win with a social media exclamation point. It must have felt especially good for him to get in rhythm from long range; before going 4 for 5 on Sunday, he'd missed 35 of his 37 3-point tries in 16 games over the past month.
Not that he'd give you the satisfaction of acknowledging that getting on track, even with multiple long-range bombs falling late, felt especially good ... or, frankly, that he'd ever been off-track, according to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:
"It's just what I'm supposed to do," Bryant said. "It's about that time." [...] "Those are shots that I work on. I didn't feel like I was hot or anything," Bryant said. "I feel like I was making shots that I'm supposed to make. When you work on them hundreds of times, then you've got to put them in the basket."
In doing so, Bryant carried the no-doubt-about-it-playoff-bound-for-sure Lakers to their third straight win and their 11th in 15 games, putting them 2 1/2 games back of the Houston Rockets for the eighth seed out West at 28-29 on the season; a win Monday night would get the Lakers back to .500 for the first time in 2013. (It won't be easy to come by, though, as L.A. travels to Pepsi Center for the back end of a back-to-back to take on the Denver Nuggets, who are 23-3 at home on the season.)
After Kobe twisted the knife with his postgame tweet, Cuban responded with a bit of a smirk at having made some kind of dent in the collective Laker psyche:
Nice to know there is a least one team and theirplayers, outside of the Mavs, that listen to everything I say. — Mark Cuban (@mcuban) February 24, 2013
... but he still had to recognize real.
— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) February 24, 2013
Video via our friends at the NBA.
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