‘Whispers’ that Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler don’t want to team up with LeBron James on Lakers

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers are heading into a season that is just the first step of a process that would both take them back to title contention and, preferably, see them as favorites by the time James’ contract is up.

In order for that goal to be achieved, they’ll need another bonafide superstar, and in short order, but according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, their options this summer might be dwindling.

There are whispers around the league that neither Jimmy Butler nor Kawhi Leonard wants to play with LeBron, and sources I’ve talked to would be shocked if Klay Thompson left Golden State.

Kevin Durant might be leaving Golden State, but if that happens, it’s hard to believe he’d be doing so to go from one situation where he’s the second fiddle to another. Kyrie Irving has already verbally committed to staying in Boston long-term, and has already demanded out of a James-led team.

Sure, Thompson has familial ties back to the Lakers, but I agree with O’Connor’s sources on this — he’s probably staying. Add to that what O’Connor is hearing about Butler and Leonard, and the Lakers’ options this summer aren’t nearly what many envisioned.

Maybe DeMarcus Cousins fully recovers from his torn achilles, but having seen the Lakers go down that road with Kobe Bryant, I have to imagine there’s some trepidation from the team on doing a second round of that experiment.

If Lonzo Ball isn’t able to stay healthy, or he never quite figures out how to play with LeBron — as O’Connor speculates — maybe the Lakers look at Kemba Walker, though he isn’t the perfect fit with James either, and seems very at home in Charlotte.

Khris Middleton makes a ton of sense given his skillset on both ends of the court, but that’s hardly the kind of name the Lakers had in mind when they started on the process I mentioned above.

This will be fascinating to watch and, if the Lakers surprise people this year, maybe players’ stances on joining LeBron on the NBA’s marquee franchise change. O’Connor’s report comes on the first day of the regular season. You can bet that over the next six months, situations will change, for the better and worse for everyone involved.

O’Connor’s sources’ whispers also mark what will be a season-long deluge of rumors swirling around the Lakers and the NBA’s superstars, but at least we have basketball to also fill the time.

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