So it appears that Isaiah Thomas is not a newsbreaker, because despite the littlest reporter’s comment on Snoop Dogg’s Instagram post suggesting that LeBron James is coming to the Los Angeles Lakers, the latest reporting makes it seem like James might need the purple and gold to acquire Kawhi Leonard from the San Antonio Spurs first.
To that end, it looks like the Lakers are now going after Leonard, hard:
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
This is the first communication between the teams since the Spurs “shut the door” on the Lakers initial call.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) June 28, 2018
It sounds like things went better this time:
Can confirm @ramonashelburne's report that the Lakers and Spurs re-engaged today about Kawhi Leonard. Was told by a source it was a "productive" call.— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) June 28, 2018
As reported earlier Wednesday morning, in their efforts to get Leonard, the Lakers are trying to get an extra first round pick to entice the Spurs back to the bargaining table, according to the journalistic superteam of Shelburne, Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst of ESPN:
The Lakers have expressed a willingness to teams to take on 2018-19 salary for the chance to secure a future first-round pick, league sources said. That pick could be used to sweeten a prospective trade opportunity.
As the cited report outlines, the Lakers would need more than just a solitary first-rounder in order to get a deal done for Leonard. It would likely cost them one or two of their own blue-chip youngsters (i.e. Brandon Ingram and/or Kyle Kuzma, because the Spurs reportedly don’t want Lonzo Ball) as well as possible future first round picks of their own.
That’s a steep price to pay for a player who could be a free agent and sign with the team for nothing in a year anyway, but if that’s what it actually costs to get James in the door and pair him with Leonard and possibly even George, it’s worth doing.
Still, I am ... dubious ... that this is actually what it would cost for the Lakers to get James to sign. The report from Wednesday morning practically screamed that the Spurs are getting desperate, and it hardly seems like a coincidence that this leaked a day after Magic Johnson appeared so confident that the Lakers’ free agency dreams are going to come true that he staked his own job on it.
More likely is that the Spurs don’t feel as though they’re getting good enough offers for Leonard because teams are scared of him bolting for the Lakers, and that this is a desperate attempt to get Los Angeles to make a panic trade for him rather than lose out on James as well.
To be clear, I don’t dispute the report, and I do think it probably had the desired effect of getting the Lakers back to the table. I don’t, however, think that the Lakers are necessarily as desperate as some will portray them in the wake of this report. Sure, the team would like to get a deal done for Leonard, but I don’t think they are going to mortgage their entire young core to see it happen.
Despite what the Spurs want everyone to think, they don’t have the leverage here, and this looks like the last-ditch swipes of a cornered and wounded title contender rather than the position of power they want us to think they sit in. We’ll see if the Lakers view it that way, and if they can make a fair deal for Leonard anyway it may not matter, but the only thing certain right now is that the offseason and free agency is really heating up now.
Hang in there, Lakers fans. This is only going to continue to get crazier.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.