A day after Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations Earvin “Magic” Johnson exuded confidence beyond the expectations of many, ESPN reported pressure is mounting on Johnson and the Lakers’ front office to make a deal for San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard.
The pressure, according to ESPN, revolves around Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James. By Friday, James will have to make a decision whether or not to enter free agency.
Leonard’s situation will likely affect that decision.
Later Wednesday, ESPN reported that the Lakers had reached out again to pursue Leonard for the first time since their initial inquiry, reinforcing the reported urgency.
Update from this morning’s story. The Lakers re-engaged the Spurs Wednesday in aggressively pursuing Kawhi Leonard. Story w/ @wojespn coming shortly on ESPN. This is the first contact between the teams since the Spurs “shut the door” on them after an initial call.
— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) June 28, 2018
For months, many thought the Lakers were in the driver’s seat to land Oklahoma City forward Paul George. Not only did ESPN report Wednesday that George is no longer assured of signing with the the Lakers, but it also referenced George (who said last summer he would eventually sign with the Lakers) as a reason pressure is mounting.
This news follows a day in which Johnson spoke confidently about the Lakers’ prospects.
“Next summer, if nobody comes and I’m still sitting here like this, then it’s a failure,” Johnson said. “If I can’t deliver I’m going to step down myself, [Jeanie Buss] won’t have to fire me, I’ll step away from it, because I can’t do this job.”
The quote, which was spoken by Johnson at the Lakers’ NBA draftee media session, spoke to the Lakers’ commitment to acquire a superstar (or multiple) — one of whom is Leonard, who expressed his want to be traded after complications with the Spurs regarding their handling of his quadriceps injury during the past year.
As for what the Lakers would have to give up for Leonard, ESPN reported a certain combination of former first-round picks in Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart, as well as future first-round picks. Not to mention, a possible sign-and-trade agreement for restricted free agent Julius Randle could be in play.
The Lakers have also “expressed a willingness” to pursue salary dumps for the 2018-19 season in hopes of acquiring a future first-rounder as part of a possible deal, according to ESPN. That said, in the two organizations’ initial conversations, the Lakers did not get very far.
The Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Clippers are also teams that have made offers to the Spurs for Leonard, according to ESPN. With 48 hours until free agency’s beginning, time will tell whether or not the Lakers can entice the Spurs to give up the former NBA Finals MVP in Leonard.
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