Lakers Rumors: Latest Buzz on Kawhi Leonard Trade Talks, Dwight Howard and More

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 3, 2018

FILE - In this Jan. 13, 2018, file photo, San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) moves the ball up court during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets, in San Antonio. The absolute unwillingness to answer certain questions is part of the San Antonio Spurs' mystique. The Spurs just don't share much. So there is some unmistakable irony here that when it comes to the obviously fractured relationship between San Antonio and Kawhi Leonard, it's the Spurs who are the ones frustrated by the lack of answers. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
Eric Gay/Associated Press

The LeBron James-led Los Angeles Lakershas a nice ring, doesn't it?—are keeping busy after already collecting the biggest possible prize of 2018 NBA free agency.

Monday saw the purple and gold add Rajon Rondo and subtract Julius Randle, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Judging by the speed at which the rumor mill is moving, construction of The King's new castle is an ongoing process.

The latest nuggets are compiled below and include their attempt to add another former Finals MVP and a familiar face trying to plot his return.


Spurs Underwhelmed By Kawhi Offers?

Kawhi Leonard wants to be a Laker. That's been well-documented at this point, with Wojnarowski recently saying Leonard's desire "is unchanged."

There's only one issue: Leonard is under contract with the San Antonio Spurs until next summer. L.A. is trying to accelerate that exit in a trade, but so far that attempt has failed to gain traction.

"It'll be fascinating to monitor what type of leverage the Spurs can create for Kawhi Leonard, who still desires to play for the Lakers, according to multiple league sources—all of whom say offers to the Spurs have been underwhelming. One executive said the proposed packages have gotten worse with each round of negotiations, while another said they're flat-out unacceptable."

The Spurs are playing hardball, as they should.

Disgruntled or not, Leonard is on a short list of the Association's elite. Before a lingering quad issue effectively erased his 2017-18 season, he'd finished third in the 2016-17 MVP voting and second the year prior.

So, San Antonio will milk this as best it can. The question is whether L.A. plans to up the ante. There might be reasons to wait, considering Leonard could sign there next summer and James' four-year commitment eases pressure to upgrade overnight.


Dwight Howard Hoping to Return?

Dwight Howard's first go-round with the Lakers proved disastrous. The 2012-13 supposed superteam battled injuries and in-fighting, ultimately limping to a 45-37 season and being swept out of the opening round by the second-seeded Spurs.

Howard bolted to the Houston Rockets the following summer, and he's twice been traded in the past 13 months. His recent swap to the Brooklyn Nets can't be completed before July 6, but both parties have already agreed to buyout talks, per ESPN's Chris Haynes.

Once the buyout is handled, Howard will hit the open market. And he reportedly has interest in returning to L.A., per HoopsHype's Alex Kennedy:

Alex Kennedy @AlexKennedyNBA

In addition to the Pelicans and Warriors, Dwight Howard is interested in returning to the Lakers, according to Sam Amick. "He’d like to play with LeBron [James]," Amick said on The HoopsHype Podcast. "That’s definitely on his radar." It's unclear if the interest is mutual.

The last part of that tweet is critical—the Lakers' level of interest is uncertain.

They've already added a high-flying center in JaVale McGee, per Haynes, and their most recent starting center, Brook Lopez, is unsigned. Given the shooting concerns with the Lakers' revamped roster—they were already last season's second-least accurate team from long range (34.5 percent)—and the need for optimal spacing around James, Howard would seem a curious addition.


Point Guard Competition?

Say what you will about Lonzo Ball's shooting as a rookie, he seemed certain to return to his starting role. The organization valued him enough to make him the No. 2 pick last summer, and he made good on that investment as only the fourth freshman to ever average at least 10 points, seven assists and six rebounds.

But the Rondo addition adds a new wrinkle to the backcourt equation. The 32-year-old has made 697 starts over 12 NBA seasons and only opened fewer than half his games as a rookie.

As Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times reported, Rondo has been assured he'll have a chance to win the starting spot:

Tania Ganguli @taniaganguli

Rondo has been told it'll be an open competition at starting point guard. One source close to Lonzo Ball tells me: "Zo's not running from the competition."

Ball should be considered the early favorite as they have far more riding on his development. He's the incumbent. He also left UCLA with a 41.2 three-point percentage, meaning there's substantial room for growth as a shooter.

Rondo isn't a spacer and has never pretended to be one. His career high is 0.9 threes per game; Ball averaged 1.7 last season. Rondo's career conversion rate from distance is 30.9, which hardly seems high enough to banish Ball to the bench.

But it seems Rondo will be given a chance, and his odds of stealing the gig could substantially increase if the Lakers add another win-now piece. He might not be the cleanest on-paper fit for James, but Rondo was the starting point guard of a 48-win Western Conference semifinalist just last season.

The new-look Lakers won't be lacking storylines, but this could be one of the most compelling to monitor.


Unless otherwise indicated, all stats are from Basketball Reference or NBA.com.

Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @ZachBuckleyNBA.