The Los Angeles Lakers have reached out to All-Star point guard D’Angelo Russell’s camp about facilitating a meeting with Russell at the start of free agency, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Russell and the Lakers reportedly have “mutual interest” in a reunion:
The Los Angeles Lakers reached out to D'Angelo Russell's agents at CAA -- Austin Brown and Aaron Mintz -- to set up a meeting with the All-Star guard, league sources tell ESPN. The Lakers and Russell share a mutual interest in a reunion. Lakers have the cap space to sign him.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 29, 2019
The Nets are expected to renounce Russell if they get a commitment from Kyrie Irving, which is likely. Russell will then enter unrestricted free agency, where he will be eligible for a four-year max deal starting at $27.3 million. The Lakers are set to have $32 million in cap space.
However, it sounds like the Lakers “aren’t likely” to actually offer Russell the full max, according to Tania Ganguli and Broderick Turner of The L.A. Times.
The Lakers’ interest in Russell isn’t all that hard to understand. Russell is a 23-year-old All-Star and with Irving and Kemba Walker off the market, he’s arguably the best point guard available in free agency. Russell is also a dynamic scorer, which makes him the perfect complement to James, who thrived playing alongside Kyrie Irving during his second stint in Cleveland.
The real question is: Why the hell would Russell come back to the team that kicked him on his way out just two years ago?
Well, for starters, Russell would be the clear-cut third option on a championship-contending team. And not just any championship-contenting team — a legitimate title contender in Los Angeles. Obviously being a star player in Los Angeles has its perks, but Russell has extra incentive to relocate to La La Land this summer, as laid out by Nick De Paula of ESPN:
D’Angelo Russell’s Nike shoe deal is set to expire this fall as well. Brands already have massive interest in the All-Star, but a move to LA would escalate his offers. https://t.co/3LaZHRCaoF— Nick DePaula (@NickDePaula) June 29, 2019
There is also the matter of Magic Johnson — the man who traded Russell — being gone, which has reportedly left Russell with more of an open mind about a potential return.
Of course, Russell only makes sense for the Lakers if they strike out on Kawhi Leonard, but considering there is mutual interest between the two sides, it’s not unrealistic to assume Russell and his camp will wait to see what happens on that front.
A summer where Russell is the Lakers’ fallback option? They could do a lot worse.