Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant basically threw NBA owners under the bus Friday and dared anyone to say anything about it.
Bryant was asked about the pressure seemingly applied to the players by fans to take less money so a franchise can build a better team. The subject hit a raw nerve with the 16-time All-Star.
“It’s the popular thing to do — the player takes less, blah blah, blah, blah,” Bryant said. “I think it’s a big coup for the owners to put players in situations where public perception puts pressure on them to take less money, because if you don’t, then you get criticized for it.
“It’s absolutely brilliant. But I’m not going for it. I know that the new head of the players association [Michelle Roberts] ain’t going for it either.”
When Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was told that Bryant thinks he’s “brilliant,” Cuban said. “Oh, he said that? Kobe’s one of the smartest guys I’ve ever known.”
A defiant Bryant signed a two-year, $48.5 million extension a year ago, sparking an outrage from Lakers fans believing there wouldn’t be enough money left for the franchise to sign any other quality players. From Bryant’s standpoint, the fans have been totally hoodwinked by the owners.
“I think this is where players get themselves in a lot of trouble, which with me in my 19th year in the league I really don’t care, so I kind of say what I need to say,” Bryant said. “I think you have to look at the business of basketball.
“I think for a lot of writers and for a lot of fans, that they have a very tough time distinguishing the two. This is a business and you have to look at individuals and what they generate in the market that they generate revenue in. You can’t separate those.”
Cuban saw forward Dirk Nowitzki take a hometown discount and sign a free-agent contract this past July for a mere $25 million over three years.
“I can’t speak about the players’ side of it, but I can tell you that many a owner has discussed the fact that if you don’t spend every penny you can, when you walk down the street fans scream at you and yell at you about how cheap you are,” Cuban said, giving his side of the argument.
Cuban said he didn’t apply any pressure on Nowitzki to take less money in his last contract.
“Not even a little bit, because for Dirk it’s not a discount,” Cuban said. “First of all, not every player in the NBA, not every owner in the NBA is motivated solely by money.”
On why Nowitzki took less money, Bryant said, “I think it means he’s not playing in Los Angeles.”
Despite constant criticism, Bryant steadfastly believes he didn’t take all the money he could have taken from the Lakers in his last contract.
“Did I take a discount? Yeah,” Bryant said. “Did I take as big a discount as some of you fans would want me to? No.
“Is it a big enough discount to help us be a contender? Yeah.”
Harris expected back
The Mavs expect guard Devin Harris to play in Saturday’s game in Houston.
Harris missed the last two games with soreness in his lower right leg.