A two-year plan the Los Angeles Lakers front office implemented began to take shape with the signing of LeBron James during 2018 NBA Free Agency and came further into fruition with an agreed-upon trade for Anthony Davis this summer.
With one of the more formidable duos in place, the Lakers set their sights on Kawhi Leonard and assembling arguably the most-talented trio ever assembled. The Lakers were among the teams to meet with Leonard in what was a rollercoaster free agency process.
Davis and James each had some level of involvement in the Lakers’ attempt to sign Leonard, and neither is harboring any sort of resentment for the reigning Finals MVP spurning them for the L.A. Clippers.
“I’m not surprised by anything, to be honest. But I also don’t really get too excited,” James explained. “If you ask me if I was getting excited about it, I don’t get too excited until things actually happened.
“I thought we had a chance and that’s all you can ask for. I thought we put ourselves in position to have a chance to get him. When he went to the Clippers, I thought it was just as cool. It’s great for our league and he had to do what was best for him. We all respect that.”
Even with his measured approach, James sensed the Lakers had a legitimate opportunity to sign Leonard. “Yeah, because I’m a positive guy,” he said.
Davis, who waived a $4 million trade kicker to provide the Lakers with more financial flexibility that ultimately was used to fill out the roster, felt some trepidation after speaking with Leonard.
“He doesn’t talk much. It was fun, for me, to go through it with a player like Kawhi. To try to recruit him to come here, it was fun,” Davis recalled.
“We had one conversation and I think he came out with a statement, or somebody said, he doesn’t really like all the recruitment and all that stuff. So I felt like I overstepped my boundaries or something. It was a fun process.”
Like James, Davis wasn’t caught off guard by Leonard signing with the Clippers, who simultaneously orchestrated a trade for Paul George to put together their own pair of All-Stars.
“I haven’t talked to him since then. I wasn’t surprised. I mean, he can do whatever he wants obviously. We thought we had a chance but he made his decision,” Davis said.