LeBron James

Lakers Introduce Anthony Davis

After months of waiting for a trade, Anthony Davis learned about the deal that sent him to the Lakers on Instagram, writes Chris Bumbaca of USA Today. Speaking today at his introductory press conference, Davis explained that he was watching a movie when the news broke and he missed two calls from his agent, Rich Paul. After a return call was unsuccessful, Davis tried social media, where he found out he was headed to L.A.

The deal was no surprise for Davis, who submitted a trade request to the Pelicans in January. The Lakers were one of his preferred destinations, offering the chance to team up with fellow Klutch Sports client LeBron James. Even so, Davis is happy that the process is finally over.

“That’s the biggest thing for me,” he said. “The relief of not knowing the unknown anymore and not knowing where I was going to be next season.”

GM Rob Pelinka, who closed the deal by offering New Orleans Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and a package of draft picks, called Davis’ introduction “a history-shifting day for the Los Angeles Lakers” and said organization is hoping for “a decade of dominance” from its new big man.  Right now, L.A. is guaranteed just one year out of Davis, who is expected to opt out of his current contract next summer.

There’s more from today’s press conference:

  • Davis doesn’t regret waiving his $4MM trade kicker, even though the move was designed to help land Kawhi Leonard, who wound up choosing the Clippers. “Any time you’re able to able to acquire a player like Kawhi, you have to do almost everything to get a guy like that,” he said. “Obviously, it didn’t work out for us, but I still wanted to do everything I could to help the team. That $4MM was to add more money to a player’s contract or get another guy, and by all means I was willing to do that.”
  • Pelinka frequently sought input from Davis and James as the front office filled out the roster with free agent signings. Once Leonard was off the market, the Lakers focused on making the most of their cap space to build as much depth as possible. “I like our roster,” Davis said. “I like every player that we have, from one through 14. I’m excited about it. I would put our roster against anybody. I think that in a seven-game series we would come out victorious.”
  • Davis turned aside a question about his long-term future in L.A., saying he’s “focused on this season,” tweets Ben Golliver of The Washington Post. “When that time comes around next year, you can ask me that question and we can revisit it,” Davis responded. “Right now my focus is on this year and figuring out how I can help this team and help this organization become a championship team.”
  • Davis isn’t bothered by negative reaction he got from fans and the media after requesting a trade, relays Harrison Faigen of Silver Screen and Roll (Twitter link). “As long as I can sleep at night and live with the decisions that I made, then I’m happy and I don’t really care what anyone else thinks,” he explained. “I have a great team around me who I can talk to about things that’s going on, and they give me great advice and at the end of the day I’ll live with the decisions I make.”

Lakers Notes: Pelinka, Contracts, Green, Cousins

The Lakers are taking an all-or-nothing mentality into next season with the acquisition of Anthony Davis and numerous veteran free agents, including DeMarcus Cousins. GM Rob Pelinka said there’s only one goal for next season, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN“For us, anything short of a championship is not success,” Pelinka said. “So we have to learn from last season, because we didn’t win a championship. And a lot of that went into the construction of the roster this year.”

We have more on the Lakers:

  • Pelinka notes the benefit of signing players to short-term contracts. While Davis is expected to be a long-term Lakers, only James (player option) is currently on the books beyond 2021, Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times relays. “It gives us the ability to not only contend in the short term with the players we wanted, but also add a superstar or max player in that July of 2021,” Pelinka said.
  • Shooting guard Danny Green, another off-season free agent addition, said he waited for Raptors teammate Kawhi Leonard to make his decision before he chose his destination, according to another Ganguli story. Green may have stayed in Toronto or gone to Dallas if Leonard hadn’t joined the Clippers. “Those five days seemed like five months. … You think a day, it goes by pretty fast but the way it was happening, the way I was talking to him, you would think it was a week. Like, ‘I got to wait another day, dude? Like, come on!’” Green said.
  • The Cousins signing will only work if he’s willing to come off the bench and split the center spot with JaVale McGee, Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times opines. That could be a tough for Cousins to accept, given that he was a premier player prior to rupturing his Achilles two seasons ago, Woike notes. Cousins is thrilled to be reunited with former Pelicans teammate Davis, Youngmisuk writes in a separate story“We realized how much better we made one another and how much we made the game easier for each other. We both appreciate each other’s presence,” Cousins said. “To add LeBron James to the mix, his résumé speaks for itself.”

Lakers Plan To Start LeBron James At Point Guard

With a new-look roster surrounding their star player next season, the Lakers plan to try LeBron James at a new position. According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, the club will head into 2019/20 with the intention of starting James at point guard.

James had frequently assumed ball-handling duties and operated as a point forward throughout his Hall-of-Fame career, but it sounds like this arrangement will look a little different, since he won’t be opening games alongside a traditional point guard. Sources tell Haynes that James and Danny Green are expected to start in the backcourt for the Lakers.

While point guards like Rajon Rondo, Quinn Cook, and even Alex Caruso should see plenty of action for the Lakers over the course of the season, putting James at the point could allow the club to trot out a starting lineup with a ton of size.

Theoretically, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, and Kyle Kuzma could fill out the starting five, though I’m not sure that’d be the best way to optimize the rotation. We’ll have to wait to see which direction the team goes — and if the LeBron-as-point-guard plan is one that sticks.

Details On Kawhi Leonard’s Decision, Free Agent Meetings

Kawhi Leonard‘s camp spoke to the Raptors about the possibility of acquiring Paul George or Bradley Beal, Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star reports. The franchise considered the request, though Masai Ujiri & Co. began to believe in the final days leading up to Leonard’s decision that Kawhi, who was in Toronto from Wednesday to Friday, was not serious about rejoining the defending champs.

Leonard was focused on the Clippers even as his championship run with the Raptors was ongoing, Arthur writes. His camp gauged Jimmy Butler‘s interest in teaming up with him in Los Angeles throughout the postseason and the Clippers had planned to go after the pairing. Butler ended up landing in Miami and it appeared that the title and the inability to get Butler had closed the gap between the Raptors and the Southern California franchise.

The Raptors engaged in trade talks with the Thunder, though Arthur cautions that Toronto never came close to acquiring George and writes that Russell Westbrook was not involved in those discussions. It was previously reported that Westbrook and George both could have been included in a potential package to the Raptors. Westbrook was open to the idea of playing with Leonard, Arthur hears.

Here’s more buzz surrounding the Final MVP’s decision to move to California:

  • The location for the Lakers’ meeting with Leonard was switched last minute to Westlake Village and only owner Jeanie Buss and GM Rob Pelinka were there, as per Leonard’s request, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com tweets. Shelburne adds that Leonard met with George near that location on the same day.
  • The Lakers knew their typical pitch, promising stardom and off-court fame, would not appeal to Leonard, Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times details. The team stuck to basketball in their hotel meeting with Leonard, attempting to sell him on winning a championship with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The meeting only lasted two hours.
  • Leonard and his uncle spoke to Magic Johnson prior to the Lakers‘ meeting, Ganguli adds. They had questions about Johnson’s recent comments on Pelinka where Johnson accused the former agent of betraying him. Johnson responded with praise for the organization and spoke highly of the Lakers’ front office. Johnson’s comments were not brought up in the Lakers’ short meeting, Ganguli hears.
  • The Lakers had no idea that Leonard wanted George as a teammate, per Ganguli. It was inconsequential, as Los Angeles had no real means of acquiring him from Oklahoma City since the club had already given up so many assets in the Anthony Davis deal.

Leonard’s Free Agency Could Go To End Of Week

Kawhi Leonard may not make a commitment in free agency until late this week, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on the station’s Get Up program (Twitter link).

While the commitments of other top free agents Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler were made public before free agency officially began on Sunday night, Leonard will mull his options a little longer. The two Los Angeles teams and the Raptors are the contenders for his services.

“I’m told he is going to continue to take his time. … the teams who are involved are expecting that this could go even late into the week,” Wojnarowski said.

Leonard deliberation has already impacted the Lakers, who are looking to make a championship run next season. They’re interested in some lower-level free agents but have to await Leonard’s decision. Wojnarowski cited Seth Curry, who agreed to a contract with the Mavericks, as a player the Lakers were interested in signing.

“They’re going to keep losing guys off the board,” Wojnarowski said.

Leonard has spoken to Magic Johnson several times about the Lakers, according to the Los Angeles Times’ Broderick Turner, and there has also been a conversation with GM Rob Pelinka. Johnson can’t officially meet with Leonard on behalf of the organization after resigning his post as president of basketball operations but he’s free to speak in an unofficial capacity.

Turner told Spectrum Sportsnet that Leonard asked Johnson if the Lakers had make an attempt to trade for him prior to the Spurs’ deal with the Raptors (hat tip to SilverScreenAndRoll.com)

“There was one interesting question (Leonard) had for Magic: ‘Did you guys try to trade for me when I was in San Antonio?’ And the answer was ‘yes, but because it was Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs, and our history, they were asking for 2,000 draft picks — well, not 2,000 — like four draft picks, first-round draft picks, and we just couldn’t do that.’ And that was one of his questions.”

Johnson told Leonard and his uncle, who participated in the conversations, that the disharmony within the front office is a thing of the past. Johnson also emphasized the storied history of the franchise, according to Turner.

“It’s about all those great players. You can be another one, you can join LeBron James and you can win more titles, and you don’t have to put as much stress on your body to do that. We have two stars to work with you,’” Johnson said.

Leonard also asked if he might be allowed to bring in his own trainer.

Durant, Kawhi Reportedly Discussing Playing Together

With free agency set to open on Sunday, the top two available players, Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant, have discussed scenarios in which they could play together, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne.

As Wojnarowski notes, if the two stars decide they want to team up, the two likeliest possibilities would be the Knicks or Clippers. The Knicks have the cap room necessary to offer both players maximum-salary contracts. The Clippers would have to do a little work to get there, but have a path if they can find a taker for Danilo Gallinari‘s expiring $22.6MM contract.

The Nets, Lakers, Warriors, and Raptors are among the other teams believed to be in pursuit of either Leonard or Durant. However, Golden State and Toronto could only re-sign their own respective stars, the Lakers only have room to sign one top free agent, and the Nets are believed to be zeroed in on Kyrie Irving, which would leave them with enough cap space for just one additional star.

Before Durant went down with a calf injury – and then an Achilles tear – in this year’s playoffs, he and Leonard were being discussed as the NBA’s top two players. Although KD is expected to miss the entire 2019/20 season as he recovers from his Achilles injury, a long-term pairing of Durant and Leonard could turn any franchise into a perennial championship contender.

ESPN’s report represents the second time today we’ve heard about the possibility of Durant and Leonard teaming up. Shams Charania of The Athletic wrote earlier this morning of a belief that KD had considered the possibility of joining forces with Kawhi, though Charania’s report gave no indication of how Leonard felt about the idea.

As we detailed this morning, Leonard’s free agency had long been viewed as a two-way race between the Raptors and Clippers, but that’s no longer the case, with the Lakers and Knicks both trying to get into the mix. Sam Amick of The Athletic wrote today about the pitch that LeBron James intends to make to Kawhi.

Many scenarios appear to remain in play for this summer’s top free agents. According to Wojnarowski and Shelburne, Leonard is expected to meet with the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, and Raptors once free agency opens, while Durant plans to talk to the Clippers, Knicks, Nets, and Warriors.

Luke Adams contributed to this story.

Kawhi Leonard Wants To Meet With Jeanie Buss, Magic Johnson

11:30pm: Full reports from ESPN and Los Angeles Times provide more details on Leonard’s proposed meeting(s) with the Lakers, as Shelburne, Turner, and Tania Ganguli explain in those stories that Kawhi’s camp made it clear he only wants Buss and Johnson involved in his meeting with the team.

The Lakers’ owner (Buss) and former president of basketball operations (Johnson) will likely have to meet with Leonard and his camp separately, since the NBA has told Johnson that he can’t be a formal part of the free agent process, per ESPN and The Times. He still has interest in doing what he can on an informal basis to help the Lakers.

While James and Davis also plan to meet with Leonard, they might not be involved in the Lakers’ formal meeting, since Kawhi’s camp let it be known he wants that meeting to be with only Buss, rather than with multiple members of the front office, according to The Times. Additionally, ESPN’s report notes that Davis can’t act as an official representative of the Lakers, since he won’t actually become a Laker until July 6.

4:50pm: Citing league rules, Johnson said he cannot participate in the meeting nor has Buss asked him to meet with any prospective free agents, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN tweets. A third party called Johnson and told him Leonard wanted to meet with him, Shelburne adds in another tweet.

4:24pm: Kawhi Leonard’s representatives plan to meet with Lakers owner Jeanie Buss and former president of basketball operations Magic Johnson next week when free agency begins, Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times tweets. The meeting will likely take place in Los Angeles, Turner adds.

A Yahoo Sports report on Thursday revealed that Leonard planned on meeting with both L.A. teams along with Raptors and this seems to firm up some of those plans.

The Lakers opened up a max $32MM salary slot for the Finals’ Most Valuable Player by agreeing to trade Moritz WagnerIsaac Bonga, and Jemerrio Jones to the Wizards as part of the Anthony Davis trade. Additionally, Davis has agreed to waive his $4MM trade kicker. The Lakers are hoping to secure Leonard or Kyrie Irving to form an imposing superstar trio with Davis and LeBron James.

James and Davis are planning to be part of the formal pitch to Leonard, Sam Amick of The Athletic tweets.

The presence of Johnson, rather than GM Rob Pelinka, at the proposed meeting is a little curious. Johnson infamously ripped Pelinka in a TV interview after resigning his post, though Johnson did praise Pelinka for pulling off the Davis trade.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Knicks Notes: Free Agency, Fine, Iguodala, Kings Trade

The Knicks are hoping to land at least one of the marquee free agents — Kevin DurantKawhi Leonard or Kyrie Irving — but if they come up short, they won’t eat up their cap space with multi-year contracts, Ian Begley of SNY TV reports. They don’t want to take on a bad contract in order to accumulate more assets. It’s uncertain if they’d trade for a player with a big contract in his walk year.

Instead, they will most likely sign free agents to one-year deals, much like the Lakers did last summer after LeBron James committed to them, in order to retain cap flexibility. The New York Daily News’ Stefan Bondy reiterates that sentiment, adding that the Knicks could shift gears and go after Anthony Davis, DeMar DeRozan, Draymond Green, Ben Simmons and Pascal Siakam next summer.

We have more on the Knicks:

  • The team was fined $50K by the league for violating rules regarding equal access for media, according to a league press release. The Knicks did not allow Bondy access to their post-draft press conference on Friday while allowing all other credentialed media who cover the team to attend. The organization has agreed to comply with media access rules in the future.
  • Warriors forward Andre Iguodala took a jab at the organization and its pursuit of major free agents, including his teammate Durant, Ethan Sears of the New York Post relays. In an interview with CNBC, Iguodala said, “Nobody’s gonna sign with the Knicks, sorry.”
  • The Knicks gave up $1MM in cash along with the No. 55 pick to the Kings on Thursday, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders tweets. New York moved up to the No. 47 spot and chose University of Michigan forward Ignas Brazdeikis. The Kings selected Virginia’s Kyle Guy.

Lakers Optimistic About Adding Kyrie Irving?

The Nets appear to be the favorite to land Kyrie Irving, but other teams still hold out hope that they can sign the point guard. The Lakers remain optimistic that they could sign Irving, a source close to LeBron James told Sam Amick of The Athletic prior to the Anthony Davis deal.

For months, Irving has expressed a desire to play alongside Davis, sources tell David Aldridge of The Athletic. While the Lakers intend to bring in a third star, adding to the Davis-James pairing, it’s unclear where Irving ranks in the franchise’s preferred signings.

Kemba Walker is reportedly the top target. Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard are other options, though both could be hard to pry from their incumbent team (and in Leonard’s case, the Lakers appear to be trailing the Clippers if he does depart Toronto).

Inking one of those players to a full max deal will be a challenge for the Lakers. The franchise is projected to have between $23.6MM and 27.7MM in cap space depending on whether Davis waives his trade bonus. If the team finds a taker for Moritz Wagner and Isaac Bonga (could be the Pelicans in revised Davis deal), the Lakers are looking at upwards of $29.4MM in room. The starting salary on a max deal for players like Irving or Walker is $32.7MM.

A path to opening up the amount needed to offer a full max deal involves the Lakers signing a free agent with cap space and then waiting until July 30 to officially complete the Davis trade. That would allow Los Angeles to aggregate the No. 4 pick’s salary in the Davis deal and operate as an over-the-cap team. Such a strategy would bring the Lakers roughly $32.5MM in room, assuming Davis waives his trade bonus. The figure remains slightly short of the max for this tier of players, though Los Angeles could make additional moves to get all the way there.

Brooklyn will have no issue offering Irving a full max deal. The Hornets possess Walker’s Bird rights and can offer him a super-max deal that tops out around $221MM in total value. Butler believes he’s getting a full max no matter which team signs him and the Raptors will hand Leonard whatever contract he wants should the Finals MVP decide to remain in the North.

The Lakers have an attractive situation for a star on the market. They can offer a title contender in one of the league’s premier markets and depending on Rob Pelinka‘s salary cap gymnastics, they may have to hope a star believes the situation is worth forgoing potential earnings.

Lakers Notes: Davis, Kuzma, LeBron, Free Agents

The Lakers would have benefited by waiting longer, but it appears their deal with the Pelicans for Anthony Davis will be completed when the moratorium ends July 6, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. He adds that there’s still a chance it won’t be finalized until July 30, which would enable L.A. to operate over the cap and count its No. 4 pick, which is headed to New Orleans, as salary. As Wojnarowski explains in a full story, the Lakers would have $32.5MM in cap room to chase free agents under that scenario, but only $27.8MM if the trade becomes official earlier.

That figure would be reduced even further if Davis insists on a $4MM trade kicker, which he has the option to waive. Accepting it would leave L.A. with just $23.8MM, not nearly enough to compete for an elite free agent. Wojnarowski notes that delaying the deal wouldn’t benefit the Pelicans, who would have $19MM in cap space if the trade becomes official July 6, but only $15MM if they have to wait until July 30.

There’s more Lakers news to pass along:

  • The Pelicans wanted Kyle Kuzma to be included in the deal, but the Lakers opted to part with future first-round picks so they could keep him, according to Tania Ganguli and Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Kuzma, who posted an 18.7/5.5/2.5 line in his second NBA season, was among the players rumored to be on the table when the teams negotiated in February.
  • Lakers GM Rob Pelinka had to make four phone calls yesterday before Pelicans executive David Griffin responded, Turner tweets. Pelinka’s willingness to include three first-round picks turned out to be too enticing for New Orleans to pass up.
  • The Lakers’ last attempt to combine two stars failed because of a personality conflict between Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard, but Ben Golliver of The Washington Post doesn’t believe that will happen this time. Davis already has a good relationship with LeBron James, appearing on his HBO show “The Shop,” and James has an added incentive to make the partnership work because they share the same agent in Rich Paul.
  • The Lakers will be seeking low-cost veterans to round out their roster, which might be good news for Reggie Bullock, observes Kevin Pelton of ESPN. Bullock, who was acquired from the Pistons at the trade deadline, has a cap hold of just $4.8MM. L.A. holds his full Bird rights and can exceed the cap to re-sign him.
  • If the Lakers don’t land a third star in free agency, they will likely pursue another shooter such as J.J. Redick, Seth Curry or Bojan Bogdanovic, suggests Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report.