Los Angeles Lakers’ faltering playoff charge could be re-ignited over the coming weeks following the signing of star man Kobe Bryant on an extended contract.
The 35-year-old Lakers shooting guard has been sidelined for months with an Achilles injury and despite still being weeks away from a return his presence could boost his side’s 66/1 chances of landing a first NBA title since 2010.
A 7-8 record for the season so far sees the Californian outfit sitting 12th in the Western Conference but with the struggling Brooklyn Nets (4-10) up next the 16-time champions could play their way into postseason contention in time for Kobe’s return.
The signing of Bryant’s new contract, which despite a reported $3m pay deduction sees his wages account for a third of the Lakers’ salary cap, should ensure that the veteran star comes back with a renewed focus and purpose.
The new contract ties Bryant to the Staples Center until 2015-16, taking his Lakers career into a 20th season which will see the Philadelphia-born star eclipse the record of 19 campaigns set by John Stockton of the Utah Jazz.
Bryant has become accustomed to setting records since entering the league directly from high school in 1996 but it is this latest accolade that will spur him on to ensure the Lakers can challenge for the title once again.
Shortly after signing the $48.5m two-year extension he said of the Lakers: “It makes me want to run through a wall for them.
“It kind of just adds more fuel to the fire of being able to come out and kind of prove to everybody that [the Lakers] are right and everybody else is wrong.”
Injuries to Bryant and fellow big earner Steve Nash have hampered the Lakers’ playoff bid thus far but with Brooklyn and Detroit – both winnable games – next up and the imminent return of Kobe – expect the 66/1 on a 17th title to shorten as the weeks go on.
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