While reaching an agreement to trade for Anthony Davis represented a significant coup for the Los Angeles Lakers, the franchise remained committed to making a second splash in free agency. At the top of their list was Kawhi Leonard, who was the final domino to fall into place.
Aside from conflicting reports on how open Leonard was to potentially signing with the Lakers was their hurdle to clearing enough salary cap space to offer him a max contract. One bar was cleared when Davis elected to waive a $4 million trade kicker that the Lakers otherwise were financially responsible for.
The 26-year-old recently explained the decision was made in order to put the Lakers in the best possible position come free agency. “Obviously, any time you’re able to acquire a player like Kawhi, you have to do almost everything to get a guy like that,” Davis reiterated at his introductory press conference.
“It didn’t work out for us, but I still wanted to make sure I did whatever to help the team. That $4 million was to add more money to player’s contract that they wanted or to get another guy, then by all means I was willing to do that. And I think we did a great job of using that throughout the entire team.”
Although the Lakers failed in their pursuit of Leonard, the team quickly moved to fill in the remainder of their roster. The process included general manager Rob Pelinka remaining in constant communication with Davis and LeBron James.
“When he made that move, we had the space that we had, and he can attest to this but he and I and LeBron talked so much about, ‘Hey, how do we want to optimize that space?’” Pelinka said.
“I think the collaboration, all the calls we had on the hour, just making sure when he made that sacrifice that every dollar would be used in a way that he felt good about. I think that was a great process. It was an incredibly team-focused sacrificial move by Anthony.”
Davis’ input played a role in the Lakers re-signing JaVale McGee and reuniting him with DeMarcus Cousins. Davis has a strong preference to play power forward, and conveyed to Pelinka he wanted to be surrounded by centers who alleviate some of the pressure off him, as well as shooters.