Lakers executive vice president of player personnel Jim Buss shot down speculation that the team would allow Kobe Byrant to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, saying the Lakers have begun negotiating a contract extension with Kobe. Per ESPNLA.com:

“Los Angeles Lakers executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss said Friday that the team has started talks with Bryant’s representative on a contract extension for the five-time NBA champion and fully expects a new deal to be completed before the star guard can become a free agent July 1.

“‘I want to put an end to any speculation that we would allow Kobe to become a free agent,’ Buss told ESPNLosAngeles.com on Friday night. ‘That’s not going to happen. Kobe is a top priority for us. He’s a Laker legend and always will be. I don’t think we’re done winning championships with him yet.

“‘[Lakers general manager] Mitch Kupchak and [Bryant's agent] Rob Pelinka have been talking, but with him being hurt, it has slowed the process some. I don’t know when it’ll get done, but I have faith in Rob and Mitch to work things out.’”