Those stars could form a core capable of challenging the Warriors. But if only one of LeBron and George signs in Los Angeles and the Spurs won’t trade Leonard there, that lone Laker could be stuck on a middling team still too young to compete.
Who will blink first?
As LeBron James remains hesitant to be the first superstar to decide on the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency, pressure is mounting for the Lakers front office to execute a trade with the San Antonio Spurs to acquire disgruntled All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard, league sources told ESPN.
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.
Another preference by James that could impact free agency, league sources said, is that he wants to make a decision quickly in July free agency.
Hope for the LeBron-Kawhi-Paul super team remains alive. But it’s contingent on the Spurs, and San Antonio has rebuffed the Lakers’ inquiries. However, according to this report, the Spurs are willing to trade Leonard to any team – but are also taking their time. Would they deal Leonard before LeBron decides on his next team?
The Lakers – with Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart – have the assets to spur action (pun intended). Even if San Antonio doesn’t like those particular players, the overall value could be about right. A third team could take a Laker and send the Spurs a preferable player or draft pick.
If Los Angeles gets Leonard, that’d open the door for LeBron. And would George really turn down an opportunity to play on his hometown team with LeBron and Leonard?
But if the Lakers can’t get Leonard, maybe LeBron goes elsewhere. His player-option deadline is Friday, and that’s his last, best opportunity to join the Rockets. He could also opt out and re-sign with the Cavaliers or sign with the 76ers or any other team. At that point, George might just prefer to stay with the Thunder.
The Lakers are at the center of the NBA universe once again, and their success or failure here will alter the entire league landscape. The stakes are high, and time is running out.