Lakers News: Latest on Kawhi Leonard Rumors, Carmelo Anthony and More

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJuly 7, 2018

FILE - This is an April 25, 2018, file photo showing Oklahoma City Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony (7) during Game 5 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz, in Oklahoma Cit. Carmelo Anthony has played his last game for the Oklahoma City Thunder, barring a massive change of plans. A person with knowledge of the negotiations said Friday, July 6, 2018, that Anthony and the Thunder have mutually decided that he will not be on the team next season, though it remains unclear how that departure will actually happen. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because no buyout, trade or waiving has been executed. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers have Finals aspirations after luring a king to play alongside an interesting crop of talent. 

But Magic Johnson and the Lakers are far from finished in this department, especially with Carmelo Anthony now reportedly available and the beef between the San Antonio Spurs and Kawhi Leonard far from settled. 

And given how the Lakers have proceeded after landing LeBron James, who knows what else? Since James' commitment, they added Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Lance Stephenson. 

Let the Lakers tell it, though, and this was all part of a master plan. Based on the rumors making the rounds now, the plan is far from complete. 


Kawhi Leonard Update 

Eric Gay/Associated Press

It's all smoke and mirrors still when it comes to Leonard. 

The idea Leonard would only be traded to the Eastern Conference went out the window when it became apparent those teams would likely only have him for one year before he joined the Lakers as a free agent. 

That seemed to leave the Lakers as the lone possible trade destination. 

Or not. 

According to ESPN.com's Michael C. Wright on the Count The Dings network's Back to Back podcast, Leonard wants to go the Los Angeles Clippers instead. 

"The Lakers are not Kawhi's preferred destination anymore," Wright said. "He wants to go to the Clippers. Because he doesn't want to go and be second fiddle to LeBron. That's what I was told. I was told by somebody that would know. So right now the Clippers are where he wants to go."

At the start of July, ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski reported: "Sources: As trade talks have unfolded, Kawhi Leonard's focus is unchanged: He wants to be a Laker."

On Wednesday, Wojnarowski said the following on The Woj Pod (h/t LakersNation.com): "But now that LeBron is in L.A., I think the idea of going head-to-head with LeBron, to have (Kawhi) with the Clippers, him with the Lakers, and to maybe feel dwarfed by that, I'm told that's become far less appealing to him."

In other words, Leonard may love or hate the idea of teaming up with James. But he also may love or hate the idea of being James' rival in the same city. 

Got all that? 

In the end, it doesn't much matter what Leonard does or doesn't like about the two teams in Los Angeles; the Spurs are going to seek out the best compensation regardless. Yahoo Sports' Jordan Schultz reported Sunday that the Spurs wanted three first-round picks and two players for Leonard from the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Clippers don't have the same trade ammunition as the Lakers, but Johnson and the front office don't want to overpay while bidding against themselves. 


Carmelo Anthony Interested? 

Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Anthony is on his way to the open market or a new team via trade at some point this summer. 

This much seems clear after Wojnarowski and Royce Young of ESPN.com reported Anthony's reps and the Oklahoma City Thunder will work on a split via a trade, release or stretch provision as the franchise seeks cap relief after retaining Paul George

While the Houston Rockets will have an interest in Anthony, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times, Wojnarowski and Young reported the Miami Heat and Lakers will also be in the running. 

For better or worse, the Lakers might make the most sense. 

The Rockets will want to keep the ball in the hands of James Harden and Chris Paul, and the Heat have young talent to develop. The Lakers, however, need a secondary scorer next to James, and Anthony averaged 16.2 points per game in an odd role with the Thunder last year. 

Granted, Anthony might have to settle for a rotational role with the Lakers, especially if the team doesn't deal Brandon Ingram or Kyle Kuzma in a trade. But he'd get to play with a friend and compete for a title, so at the age of 34, the new role might interest him. 

Unlike the James decision, the saga surrounding Anthony figures to take some time—but the Lakers likely won't exit the conversation until something official happens. 


Rajon Rondo Talks Up Lakers 

Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

While far from the oddest move by the Lakers lately, the addition of Rondo to the mix brought up some interesting questions. 

Mostly concerning Lonzo Ball. 

Rondo isn't going to play second fiddle to a younger player, and it's hard to imagine that's what the Lakers want him to do. He's 32 years old coming off another strong season; he averaged 8.3 points, 8.2 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game on 46.8 percent shooting from the floor. He was even more impressive in the postseason over nine games, going for 10.3 points, 12.2 assists and 7.6 rebounds per game. 

But Rondo is already hard at work quelling any potential drama: 

Mike Trudell @LakersReporter

Rondo on Lonzo: "I’m excited to get a player at that age and try to help him as much as I can, as far as understanding the game and getting his game up to speed at a high level."

He also looped this into a championship theme: 

Tania Ganguli @taniaganguli

Rajon Rondo on a call w/local media. "I mean I think you put any team any group of players around LeBron James as he’s done (8) straight times, he’s going to the Finals. Obviously my expectations are the exact same things."

Ideally, Rondo will pull all of this off for the Lakers. He doesn't need to start over Ball in order to have a positive impact on the young point guard or push the Lakers into a deep playoff run. 

Of all the free agents the Lakers have added, Rondo is probably the one most liked by James. Having an experienced veteran who can respond to all sorts of situations and produce under immense pressure while chasing a championship has been a rarity around James for years. 

Rondo fills that gap and helps the organization develop talent for the future. That's not bad for a one-year deal.