Lakers Rumors: Latest on Kawhi Leonard Trade, Damian Lillard and More

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 7, 2018

San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) controls the ball during the second half of Game 4 in an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against theMemphis Grizzlies Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
Brandon Dill/Associated Press

The list of notable names connected to the Los Angeles Lakers continues to grow.

That doesn't put any new additions inside Staples Center, of course, but once LeBron James decided to don purple and gold, does anything feel out of reach anymore?

The latest round of Lakers rumors, then, is all a matter of interpretation. To an unbiased observer, they sound mostly like cold water being thrown on wild ambitions, but certain eyes might read these as L.A.'s lines to its next superstar pickup.


Spurs Asking for Everything?

Kawhi Leonard is unhappy. The San Antonio Spurs don't seem overly enthusiastic about granting his wish to get out of the Alamo City.

And why would they? He's a 27-year-old whose last two healthy seasons both produced a top-three finish in MVP voting (second in 2015-16, third in 2016-17).

If they're going to give him up, they're going to need a ton in return. That said, their current price looks steep even through that lens.

"From what I hear, they're asking a lot," salary-cap guru Larry Coon said on Spectrum SportsNet. "My sources are saying—get ready for this one—they're saying Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, two [future] firsts and two pick swaps. They're just saying give us everything."

Spectrum SportsNet @SpectrumSN

NBA salary cap expert @LarryCoon was on tonight's show to break down the #Lakers' cap space flexibility following today's moves. https://t.co/GTB1fYdQrk

Maybe that's the Spurs' way of saying it's not happening. They weren't exactly cordial the first time the Lakers tried to engage, as ESPN's Ramona Shelburne shared:

Ramona Shelburne @ramonashelburne

Within the last week the Lakers contacted the Spurs to discuss a Kawhi Leonard trade. As one source put it, “they basically shut the door on us.”

Or perhaps San Antonio thinks there's enough pressure on L.A. that it can set an exorbitant price and negotiate down to something that still returns a good profit. The problem is the Lakers already landed LeBron, so the pressure might not be what everyone first thought. He hasn't yet pushed for a second star, sources told ESPN's Zach Lowe.

Patience is probably key for the Lakers. If this is really the asking price, they're best to wait until it comes down considerably or delay their second-star search until next summer, when Leonard and several other elites hit the open market.


Damian Lillard an Option?

Speaking of non-Kawhi second-star options, Damian Lillard's name is being tossed around a bit.

"You have people in Damian Lillard's camp and on his side looking for him to leave," ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said (h/t NESN's Dakota Randall). "And he is open to leaving, even though he loves being in Portland."

ESPNLosAngeles @ESPNLosAngeles

Which two teams does Damian Lillard see himself playing for? (@stephenasmith) https://t.co/dFlwpyOB5Q

Smith says Lillard's preference would be winning in Portland, but if it's clear that can't happen, then the three-time All-Star would want to join either the Lakers or the New York Knicks.

Lillard seemed to fan the flames when he was asked about a hypothetical trade to the Lakers and didn't exactly shut it down:

Damian Lillard @Dame_Lillard

I’m typically a happy camper https://t.co/LvFoTwlEFW

This is probably the point where we should mention Lillard has three more seasons on his contract, so the incentive for the Portland Trail Blazers to entertain a trade is hard to find.

Blazers general manager Neil Olshey tried his best to kill the rumor, via NBC Sports Northwest's Peter Socotch:

Peter Socotch @PSocotchNBCSN

Neil Olshey shoots down any speculation of Lillard to LA rumors. “As much as I love LeBron, he doesn’t get to pick his teammates. That’s not how it works. This isn’t the world of sending a couple of texts out and see who wants to run with us...” #ripcity

Shelburne also said, "I don't see anything happening."

Maybe there's nothing to see here. Or maybe we'll eventually see LeBron and Lillard standing alongside one another, and we'll remember when this seemed like nothing more than a pipe dream.


Lakers in the Carmelo Sweepstakes?

Friday delivered one of the summer's least surprising developments when ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Royce Young reported that Carmelo Anthony and the Oklahoma City Thunder will part ways this offseason.

The two sides are working on a solution that could involve Anthony getting traded, OKC utilizing the stretch provision or a combined buyout and stretch, sources told ESPN.

The important thing for the Thunder is the colossal savings they'll enjoy as a result:

SportsCenter @SportsCenter

The Thunder will save over $100M by getting rid of Carmelo's contract. https://t.co/RunXfttNLU

Why does this matter for the Lakers? Because they're among the multiple teams expected to have interest in Anthony, per Wojnarowski and Young.

It's a natural connection, and not only because L.A. could use Anthony's shooting and scoring. He's also one of James' closest friends in the Association, a Banana Boat buddy for life.

In 2016, Anthony told Bleacher Report's Howard Beck that he and James have talked about teaming up since before they hooped for a living. If Anthony gets waived and becomes available for the minimum, he'd be a steal simply for helping make James comfortable in a new organization with a new supporting cast.

Anthony isn't a needle-mover at this stage of his career, but he could function as something similar if he eases James' transition.