The Los Angeles Lakers may not sign a single star free agent this summer, but they're connected to all of them.
It starts with LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. And while landing both, let alone one, seems like a pipe dream, recent happenings suggest it's possible.
ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst reported that according to sources James will only sign for a max contract. While seven teams have the cap space to afford the $22.2 million contract James demands, only two—the Lakers and Phoenix Suns—have enough space to sign James and another "high-level" free agent.
Speaking of high-level free agents, ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported that Anthony is expected to meet with the Lakers before he makes a decision. And ESPN.com's Nick Friedell reported that Anthony's coach at Syracuse, Jim Boeheim, believes he'd take a pay cut to play for a contender:
In my opinion he wants to win. I think that's the bottom line. He realizes that this is his peak, three or four years ahead, where's the best place to go and win? I think he'll take a little less money. I don't think that's that big of an issue.
That's good news for Los Angeles because it can't afford to offer both Anthony and James max contracts, thanks to the $34.7 million it owes Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash.
But it will still almost definitely need to shed Nash's $9.7 million to sign both. After all, the Lakers have competition. Anthony is expected to meet with the Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks before the Lakers.
If that competition is too stiff and Los Angeles fails to acquire Anthony and/or James, its fallback option is Pau Gasol, according to ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne. And believe it or not, there's mutual interest:
Gasol has strong ties to Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who has advocated for his return, and a deep affinity for Los Angeles and the franchise he won two NBA titles with. While the constant trade rumors stung, Gasol learned to live with them and has a level of expectation that a new coaching staff would prioritize him more than Mike D'Antoni did, sources said.
Good thing Gasol has learned to live with constant trade rumors, because Shelburne also reported that the Lakers could use him as sign-and-trade bait.
While the Lakers can offer Gasol the most money, the New York Knicks want him more. Stein reported that Phil Jackson will make a "determined attempt" to recruit Gasol. This recruiting pitch will no doubt include the fact that Gasol will be coached by former teammate Derek Fisher.
To re-sign with the Lakers, Gasol would have to wait to see what James and Anthony do, whereas the Knicks want to use him to attract Anthony. As unlikely as it is that James and Anthony sign in Los Angeles, Gasol's passing on a reunion with a front office that's actually prioritizing him may be just as far-fetched.
David Daniels is a columnist at Bleacher Report. He tweets, too.
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