When the Los Angeles Lakers cleared a mountain of salary cap space in their trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers at the deadline, many chalked it up to the organization’s latest efforts to put themselves in position to sign two max-contract players in 2018 NBA free agency.
But Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka cautioned that there were a myriad ways the Lakers could utilize the cap space. He referenced Kyrie Irving suddenly requesting a trade last summer and the Boston Celtics being in position to swing a deal with the Cavs.
Sure enough, the Lakers now find themselves involved in a similar scenario with disgruntled San Antonio Spurs All-Star Kawhi Leonard. The organization reportedly feels some pressure to complete a trade for Leonard before LeBron James becomes a free agent.
That can become official this weekend, should James decline his $35.6 million player option for the 2018-19 NBA season. Meanwhile, the Lakers are also among the teams expected to pursue Paul George.
Once considered a heavy lean to sign with the Lakers, George may now remain with the Thunder, and that is further impacting the Lakers’ thinking for a potential Leonard trade, via ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne:
There’s a race to secure Leonard before James is faced with deciding whether to become a free agent on Friday, especially with concern that Oklahoma City’s Paul George is no longer assured of signing with the Lakers, league sources said.
Although George made it clear to the Indiana Pacers and teams interested in trading for him last summer that he intended to sign with the Lakers, a season with the Thunder has seemingly softended his stance.
George raved about playing alongside Russell Westbrook and the Thunder organization as a whole on multiple instances throughout the year. Nonetheless, it’s believed George’s family continues to pull at him to return to his Southern California roots.
The Lakers figure to at least secure a meeting to make their pitch in free agency, but recent indications point to George becoming the latest, and most shocking, All-Star to spurn them.
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