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Anthony Davis thinks Lakers were ‘really, really close’ to signing Kawhi Leonard in free agency

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The Lakers thought they were going to unite Anthony Davis, LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard. So what happened?

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2019 NBA All Star Game Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

At one point this summer, Los Angeles Lakers fans felt like it was a legitimate possibly that they could watch Anthony Davis, LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard on their favorite team this season. What a time that was.

Turns out, Davis and the Lakers felt like that was a very really possibility, too, as he told Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

”I don’t really know Kawhi like that -- I don’t think no one really knows Kawhi like that. But obviously we were hopeful,” Davis says. “I definitely thought that it was a possibility that we could get him. ... I’m not going to be a haggling guy. Especially when he came and said he didn’t really like the media [attention] and people pressuring him.

”But I think there was a time where all of us felt like we were really, really close to getting Kawhi.”

It’s funny how expectations can frame things. On one hand, the Lakers offseason featured pairing James with Davis (though even that was in question at one point), creating one of the more formidable pairings the NBA has ever seen. By those standards and in a vacuum, that should absolutely be enough to be considered a fantastic summer. They even had a backup plan ready to execute just in case Leonard didn’t sign and put together an altogether fine roster.

On the other hand, GAAAAH THE LAKERS WERE THIS CLOSE TO ADDING THE CURRENT FINALS MVP AND ARGUABLY BEST TWO-WAY PLAYER SINCE, WELL, PRIME LEBRON TO THAT PAIRING.

Alas, we know how the summer actually turned out:

On July 6, though, Leonard made his announcement: The reigning Finals MVP would forsake the Toronto Raptors not for the Lakers, but for their Staples Center cohabitants, the LA Clippers. And Davis immediately flipped his mental switch.

”[I was] like, ‘Wait, hold on,’” Davis recalls. “‘We [still] got LeBron and Anthony Davis. Let’s do it.’”

And this is about where fans should be, too. Of course it would’ve been nice to also sign Leonard after acquiring Davis. In some ways, failing to land Leonard makes that Davis trade just a bit more frustrating, as it was fine to give up all the Lakers did so long as it was enough to convince Leonard to also sign later.

But that shouldn’t necessarily take away from how exciting this season might be. The Lakers are one of a handful of teams that can make a legitimate case they can win a championship this season, and could continue to improve next year as well. In most years, that should be more than enough to consider the offseason a roaring success.

The Lakers swung for the fences and missed what they thought was a very hittable pitch. Because of the way they planned out the offseason, though, they did so on strike one, rather than two, and had another opportunity to salvage the summer and reach base. It’s now up to Davis and James to bring this season home.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. Yell at the author on Twitter @AnthonyIrwinLA.