Lakers Rumors: Russell, Point Guard, LeBron, Hachimura

Before he was traded from Minnesota to the Lakers in February, D’Angelo Russell was believed to be seeking $100MM over four years on his next contract, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. Russell, who will be a free agent this summer, had an up-and-down postseason and only played 15 minutes off the bench in the final game of L.A.’s season, so Fischer is skeptical there will be bidders at that price point.

Still, Fischer hears from sources that Russell was viewed as a “positive presence” in the Lakers’ locker room and speculates that the two sides may be able to get a shorter-term (and less lucrative) deal done. Los Angeles could even keep D-Lo off the free agent market altogether by signing him to an extension on or before June 30.

Because he was traded within the last six months, Russell would be ineligible to sign an extension longer than two years, and Dave McMenamin of ESPN hears that the Lakers won’t pursue a two-year deal worth the veteran guard’s maximum number (approximately $67.5MM). However, Fischer suggests that something closer to $40MM over two years might make sense for both sides.

Given Russell’s playoff struggles, it’s certainly possible the Lakers will explore alternatives at point guard this summer, but their flexibility will be limited if they intend to bring back free agents like Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura, as has been reported. Within his story, McMenamin explores the different paths L.A. could take at the point guard spot, noting that the team might be able to package Malik Beasley ($16.5MM) and Mohamed Bamba ($10.3MM) in a trade to bring someone in without requiring cap room.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • There’s “widespread skepticism” that LeBron James will retire this offseason, according to Fischer, who says LeBron’s post-game comments on Monday surprised many team staffers. McMenamin, like, some other reporters earlier in the week, cites a source close to James who believes LeBron will return in 2023/24. Nonetheless, if only as a thought exercise, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report explores what the Lakers’ next steps might look like if the future Hall-of-Famer does decide to call it a career this offseason.
  • While retirement may not be in the cards for James this summer, foot surgery could be. After McMenamin reported this week that LeBron isn’t ruling out the possibility of undergoing a procedure to address a torn tendon in his right foot, Shams Charania of The Athletic says that surgery would likely sideline the 38-year-old for about two months, with an expectation that he’d be ready for training camp. James is undergoing further evaluations to determine whether it’s necessary.
  • During extension negotiations with Rui Hachimura last fall, the Wizards initially offered a contract in the neighborhood of $12MM per year and eventually bumped that offer to $13-14MM, according to Fischer. Hachimura’s camp was seeking something in the four-year, $60MM range, so a deal didn’t get done. The Lakers forward appears to be in good position to match or exceed that number after a strong finish to the regular season and a productive postseason — Fischer views $15MM per year as a possible floor for Hachimura.
  • The Pacers and Suns could be rival suitors to watch for Hachimura, per Fischer, who notes that both clubs pursued him on the trade market during the winter. The Pacers, who will have cap room this offseason, are better positioned to consider an offer sheet for Hachimura than the capped-out Suns would be.
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