With roughly $32.5 million in cap space, the Los Angeles Lakers have ambitions of signing an All-Star free agent this summer, and LeBron James is reportedly already doing everything he can to make sure that happens.
During an appearance on ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption,” NBA insider Brian Windhorst said that James has already made contact with two of the league’s biggest impending free agents:
“From what I understand, he’s already begun the recruiting process. I’ve heard he has had contact with Kawhi Leonard, I’ve heard he’s had contact with Jimmy Butler. There’s no tampering enforcement by players and while Magic Johnson, the guy that got in trouble for tampering before is no longer there, LeBron is tamperer-in-chief of the Lakers right now.”
In other words, James’ summer plans consist of drinking wine and tampering, and he’s all out of wine.
While it’s not hard to imagine the Lakers being competitive in the Western Conference without a second star next season, it’s clear that James would prefer to play alongside an All-Star caliber player or two, if possible, at this stage of his career.
Both Leonard and Butler had interest in being traded to the Lakers before they were traded to their current teams last year, so it makes sense that James is targeting them specifically. However, unlike Irving — who seemingly had one foot out of the door at TD Garden during the Eastern Conference Semifinals — there has been no clear indication that Leonard and Butler have any intention of leaving their teams this summer.
The Sixers and Raptors took big risks by trading for star players who didn’t list them on their preferred destinations, and like Paul George and the Oklahoma City Thunder last summer, it could pay off for both of them in a big way in free agency.
That obviously wouldn’t be an ideal outcome for the Lakers, but it would serve as another example as to why the waiting method doesn’t always work. Something tells me that message would be especially relevant this summer (cough, Anthony Davis, cough).