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The Knicks are reportedly trying to sign Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in free agency

The Lakers don’t have a ton of options if Kentavious Caldwell-Pope leaves in free agency, but this Knicks rumor could just be an attempt to get L.A. to up their offer.

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2020 NBA Finals - Game Six Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Before NBA free agency even officially started, rival teams that had interest in signing Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope were already telling Ian Begley of SNY that the New York Knicks would have “interest” in him.

Then, soon after free agency began, Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times reported that the Lakers and Caldwell-Pope had “mutual interest” in a reunion, but Ramona Shelburne of ESPN added that their opening to negotiations hadn’t been that productive:

Now, with Caldwell-Pope still on the hunt for a raise and limited teams still having the cap space to give it to him — or at least offer it and force the Lakers to up their own offers — Turner is reporting that Caldwell-Pope will get pursued by the Knicks:

Whenever something like this leaks out during free agency negotiations, we have to try and figure out who it benefits for this information to be out there. In this case, we can probably see this as a counter-leak to the report from last night that the Lakers were looking into sign-and-trade opportunities for Bogdan Bogdanovic, who would likely replace Caldwell-Pope.

Reading between the lines of all these reports, it’s clear that the Lakers want Caldwell-Pope to know they have other options — driving his price down — while Caldwell-Pope and Klutch Sports want to let the Lakers know that there are still other teams that could give him the bigger deal he seeks — driving his price back up — in addition to their other, more unique negotiating tactics like getting Anthony Davis to wait on his deal, likely until Caldwell-Pope’s situation is taken care of.

As things stand right now, the Lakers are hard capped as a result of using their mid-level and bi-annual exceptions, so they can currently only offer Caldwell-Pope around $12 million by virtue of his bird rights, but can’t offer a theoretical open market replacement anywhere near that much (without some sort of sign-and-trade).

The Lakers could get $4 million or so more to work with by salary dumping JaVale McGee, but it’s not clear if/when they will do that yet. That’s why they are most likely looking for ways to get off of McGee’s contract, either to offer Caldwell-Pope more, or to make their sign-and-trade for Bogdanovic easier:

If Caldwell-Pope leaves and the Bogdanovic negotiations can’t be worked out, with Avery Bradley gone, the Lakers don’t have a clear-cut, good Plan C option for more wing defense depth. This is now officially a multi-million dollar game of chicken between the Lakers and Klutch Sports.

We’ll see who blinks first.

Stay tuned to our trade rumors and free agency rumors trackers for updates. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.

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