ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne reported early Wednesday that Los Angeles is making a push to trade for Leonard before Friday, when LeBron James has to decide whether to accept his $35.6 million player option or become a free agent. On Wednesday night, Shelburne reported the Lakers "re-engaged the Spurs Wednesday in aggressively pursuing" Leonard.
"This is the first contact between the teams since the Spurs 'shut the door' on them after an initial call," Shelburne added.
Per Shelburne, Windhorst and Wojnarowski, the Lakers are exploring the market for an additional first-round pick they can include in a package. Also, the team has yet to sign No. 25 overall pick Mo Wagner to a contract, as league rules would not allow him to be traded for the first 30 days after he does sign his rookie-scale deal.
Yahoo Sports' Shams Charania reported earlier this month that Leonard wants out of San Antonio because of the "mistrust" that formed from the way the organization handled his quad injury this past season. He was limited to only nine regular-season games in 2017-18 and sat out of the playoffs.
Wojnarowski followed up by noting the Los Angeles native wants to play in his hometown, preferably for the Lakers.
The Lakers are viewed as one of the favorites to land James should he elect to become a free agent. However, the four-time NBA MVP may not be willing to make the move to Tinseltown alone. ESPN reported Wednesday that Paul George is no longer viewed as a lock to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder, which means the Lakers may not be able to wait until next summer for Leonard—who can opt out of his contract in 2019—to convince James to sign with them.
Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson said Tuesday that he would step down if the Lakers don't acquire a top free agent within the next two summers, per Bleacher Report's Eric Pincus. A trade for a star would also suffice.
It's unclear whether San Antonio would indeed trade the two-time All-Star to Los Angeles. According to Sam Amick of USA Today, San Antonio does not want to trade Leonard within the Western Conference. However, if the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year makes it clear he won't sign a long-term deal with any other team, the return package would likely be limited, which means the Lakers may be able to put the best offer on the table.
The Spurs do not have to rush to make a deal, as they could potentially wait until the trade deadline in February before pulling the trigger. On the other hand, the Lakers are apparently feeling pressure to find a way to lure James or George (or both) to Los Angeles.
If San Antonio is willing to listen, the next two days could go a long way toward dictating how free agency plays out.