As of Thursday morning, the Los Angeles Lakers were reportedly “confident” they could sign Bruce Brown when NBA free agency opened up on Friday. But ultimately Brown changed course, opting instead to sign a two-year, $45 million deal with the Indiana Pacers.
So what changed? Well, the money. The contract Brown got from the Pacers will see him make nearly as much in the first year as he could have made on a two-year deal with the Lakers at the $12.4 million mid-level.
According to Jovan Buha of The Athletic — who initially reported the Lakers’ confidence in signing Brown — that much bigger offer is what shifted the Lakers’ from top option for Brown to runner-up:
The Lakers were ultimately outbid. Brown was going to the Lakers if the NTMLE was his biggest option, which appeared to be the case until last night. The Pacers cleared extra cap space and threw that size of an offer at him— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) June 30, 2023
For what it’s worth, this isn’t a matter of the Lakers being cheap. They (almost literally) could not bid that high for Brown, as such a contract would have required cap space they would have needed to renounce most of their roster to clear.
That’s why once the whispers that Brown was considering the Pacers started to percolate on Friday morning at the same time as the team traded Chris Duarte’s contract for draft compensation and no incoming money to clear more room, the writing was on the wall that Brown was heading to Indiana instead of Los Angeles.
But surely neither team could have known that in advance, obviously. That would be tampering! The Pacers just made that trade on the hopes that Brown would sign with them minutes into free agency, of course.
The Lakers have now pivoted, and are reportedly signing Gabe Vincent to their mid-level exception, so this ultimately didn’t slow down their plans too much. But it is an inside look at how the NBA game of telephone can take place, with whispers of confidence prompting salary dumps so teams can make bigger offers.
For all the latest on NBA free agency, check out our Silver Screen and Roll Lakers free agency rumors tracker. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.