Landing LeBron James was the first step in Magic Johnson’s process of rebuilding the Los Angeles Lakers. As Johnson himself has mentioned, though, his work did not end there. This summer, Johnson and the front office will be focused on the second half of that plan: Landing a second superstar to play alongside James.
Tim Bontemps of ESPN wrote about one candidate to play that role for the Lakers (Kawhi Leonard) and apparently, the Lakers might want to look elsewhere:
A survey of several league executives this weekend had the Lakers trailing, even among Staples Center tenants, in the competition to get Leonard, with the LA Clippers universally being placed ahead of them. Rather than seeking to team up with James, the thinking is that Leonard would prefer to have control of his own team, which the Clippers would offer, while still giving him the ability to return to his native Southern California.
There’s certainly something to this. LeBron has shown over the course of his career that teams he plays for tend to take on his persona with little room for other stars. That said, in Miami, he made it work alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. For all the frustration Kyrie Irving spoke about since demanding a trade to get away from James, they brought the Cleveland Cavaliers their first title in franchise history.
So sure, there has been a trend that’s defined much of James’ career as it pertains to superstar teammates, but winning is a common thread, too. Leonard or any other star would be remiss to ignore that.
Bontempts continues, this time about the case Toronto could make to Leonard.
One source of optimism stems from the fact that Thunder general manager Sam Presti was able to hang on to George -- despite George having openly stated he wanted to play for the Lakers, Oklahoma City being one of the league’s smallest markets and the Thunder having lost in the first round of the playoffs last season. But the bigger source of optimism is what Toronto has to offer Leonard if he does decide to stay.
This much we know: If it is only winning that Leonard is interested in, Toronto seems like the clear-cut favorites to retain him. They’ve opened up this season looking like a juggernaut and could get better as they continue to figure out how to play together. They’re putting a season together that will go a long way in convincing Leonard to stick around if location isn’t as important to him as was initially reported when he wanted out of San Antonio.
The season is also merely 10-games old. A lot can change over the course of a six-month season and even as we get to the offseason, when Leonard is faced with that decision. Even if Leonard decides to either stay in Toronto or sign with the Clippers, the Lakers will have other options either in free agency or via trade if absolutely need be.
For now, the focus is to make the best of what they can with this specific roster. At 4-6, there is plenty of stuff to figure out, and the better they’re able to look over the course of this season, the better a case they can make to Leonard or any other superstar.