Sources: Kobe returning to Lakers
It wasn't long ago that Kobe Bryant reportedly wanted out of Los Angeles. He's not going anywhere now.
Fresh off winning the championship, the Lakers guard decided not to exercise an early termination option on the last two years of his contract and will return for the 2009-10 season, a league source told ESPN.com's Chad Ford.
Bryant is scheduled to make $23 million next season by not opting out. He also has a player option to opt out of his contract in the 2010-11 season. The Lakers will work with Bryant over the summer and fall to hammer out a new, long-term extension, according to the source.
The Los Angeles Times reported late Tuesday that Bryant will sign a three-year extension with the Lakers sometime this month. According to a source close to the situation, Bryant could make $47.8 million over the next two years and another $86 million to $91 million with the extension, with the difference depending on the salary cap.
After two straight first-round exits from the playoffs, Bryant requested a trade in the spring of 2007, saying that he didn't like the direction the team's rebuilding was going.
The Lakers then went out and traded for big man Pau Gasol. Los Angeles increased its win total from 42 games to 57 and went to the NBA Finals, eventually losing to the Boston Celtics. The Lakers bounced back with a 65-win season in 2008-09, made it back to the Finals and beat the Orlando Magic for the title. Bryant distinguished himself by winning his first championship without Shaquille O'Neal. The duo won three from 2000 to 2002.
The Lakers have also been trying to come to terms with unrestricted free-agent forwards Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza. The Times reported that general manager Mitch Kupchak reached out to the camps of both players Tuesday evening.Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.