BRYANT DECIDES NOT TO OPT OUT
Fresh off his first championship without big man Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant has chosen not to terminate the final two years of his contract and will remain with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Next the Lakers will have to keep up with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics of the world by attempting to sign free agents Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza.
Ariza's agent has been running his mouth trying to drum up interest to as many teams that will listen, but it is unlikely that any team is going to pay more than a mid-level exception. With Cleveland trying to acquire both Ariza and Ron Artest, the Lakers would be wise to start making Ariza feel more at home. Ariza's decision to stay will likely come down to his personal tastes, and the Cavs might face too hard of a time convincing Ariza that he's the guy they really want when Ron Artest is that guy. But if the Lakers balk, they might give their biggest competitor a huge break for what would amount to peanuts if he sticks a dagger in them in the Finals.
And while many analysts have taken the easy route by assuming the Lakers would dispence of the older Odom, in favor of the younger, more athletic Ariza, we don't see it that way. While we like Ariza, finding an athletic defender who can shoot the three is easier than finding a 6'10" big man that could conceivably run the point.
If the Cavs acquire Ron Artest, we think the Lakers will need to keep both Odom and Ariza, to avoid being swept in a Finals matchup.