Two weeks into free agency, the NBA landscape has changed significantly, highlighted by the Los Angeles Lakers signing LeBron James to a four-year, $153 million contract.
James will certainly make the Lakers competitive once again in the Western Conference, but president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka are trying to find a balance between winning in the short- and long-term. As a result, the attention remains on Kawhi Leonard’s situation with the San Antonio Spurs.
Despite Leonard requesting a trade, the Spurs are taking their time and reportedly asking for the Lakers’ entire young core outside of Lonzo Ball. As the 27-year-old is set to participate at Team USA Basketball two-day minicamp led by head coach Gregg Popovich, the situation has not changed, according to Cris Carter of First Things First:
“I don’t think anything’s changed. Now, is it still a possibility? Kawhi can be traded anywhere. Like, any team. So is it a possibility? But nothing’s changed from Kawhi’s side from these standpoints. He still wants to go to Los Angeles and he’s still not interested in being rented out for one season. That being Philadelphia, Boston, Toronto, or any other team. The thing we should know is, San Antonio has been in contact with Kawhi and his people, and they’ve told him if something is to get real, real close, they’ll reach out to him.”
For the Spurs, the two-day minicamp will likely be their last attempt to repair the relationship with Leonard. Even though they can offer him a five-year, $219 million supermax contract extension, Leonard has made it extremely clear he wants to play in his hometown.
As for the Lakers, they have all the leverage in potential trade discussions with the Spurs, especially with James’ commitment. Although there are risks associated with waiting for Leonard in free agency, the opportunity to sign him without gutting the roster is the team’s best option.
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