NBA free agency began with a splash, as several minutes before the calendar officially turned to July 1, word surfaced of Paul George agreeing to re-sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He went into the process along with LeBron James as one of the more sought-after free agents.
Both were said to be targets of the Los Angeles Lakers, who reportedly are also involved in completing a potential trade for disgruntled San Antonio Spurs All-Star Kawhi Leonard. George had long been considered a heavy Lakers lean but that appeared to change in recent days.
Although they lost favor with the Southern California native, the Lakers reportedly began to gain ground in the James sweepstakes. He arrived in Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon, returning from a family vacation in the Bahamas.
With James’ decision to decline his $35.6 million player option for the 2018-19 season, it led to speculation the Lakers and Cavaliers were the frontrunners for his signature.
Although James did not take an in-person meeting with the Cavs at the start of free agency, he and agent Rich Paul spoke with general manager Koby Altman, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin:
Cavs general manager Koby Altman spoke to both Rich Paul and LeBron James over the phone at 12:01 a.m., sources tell ESPN.
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) July 1, 2018
Meanwhile, the Denver Nuggets are looking to convince James they are his best option, according to Chris Mannix of Yahoo! Sports:
With Jokic and Barton on board, the Denver Nuggets will turn their attention to one more free agent: LeBron James. The Nuggets have been in contact with James's agent and will aggressively pursue a meeting.
— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixYS) July 1, 2018
Denver was among the active teams in the early stages of free agency. They agreed to a five-year, $147 million contract with Nikola Jokic, and a four-year, $53 million deal with Will Barton.
The Nuggets don’t have the necessary salary cap space to sign James outright, but they do have several expiring contracts that could be beneficial to completing a trade. The Lakers and Nuggets reportedly were engaged in trade discussions that centered around a draft pick and the aforementioned contracts.
It was presumed the Lakers were looking to acquire a draft pick that would then be included in a package to the Spurs for Leonard.
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