Lakers Rumors: Jason Kidd Hired as LA Assistant to Lure Giannis in Free Agency

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMay 19, 2019

Milwaukee Bucks head coach Jason Kidd talks with Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo as he walks off the court during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers haven't landed a costar for LeBron James yet, but they're reportedly already looking ahead to 2021 free agency.

Steve Popper of Newsday reported a person close to the Lakers believes the team hired Jason Kidd as an assistant coach to lure Giannis Antetokounmpo in free agency. Antetokounmpo is under contract through the 2020-21 season.

Kidd coached Antetokounmpo for three and a half seasons in Milwaukee, and the pair developed a close relationship. When the Milwaukee Bucks fired Kidd midway through the 2017-18 season, Giannis offered to intervene on his coach's behalf.

This seems like a rumor that should be taken with a grain of salt, if not the whole shaker. The Lakers currently employ a 34-year-old LeBron James, who has a $41 million player option for 2021-22. It's possible James chooses to opt out and leave the Lakers at that time, and the team views Giannis as an in-his-prime replacement.

That said, the hiring of Kidd two full seasons ahead of time with designs on signing Antetokounmpo at some point in the future is some pie-in-the-sky thinking. The Lakers are planning to be active in the free agency market this summer, and they're considered a potential Anthony Davis trade partner. Adding a max-level player this year and Davis via trade would take them out of Giannis contention by 2021.

If that is the Lakers' strategy, it does not appear especially grounded in reality. Kidd and Antetokounmpo were close, but Giannis has also gone out of his way to praise new Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer. The Bucks are also two wins away from an NBA Finals berth with a solid core that should stay at or near the top of the East for the next couple of seasons.

Milwaukee is not a superstar destination, but its front office has done an excellent job taking the right risks acquiring talent around Antetokounmpo. There's no guarantee—or even a likelihood—that he'll want to leave Milwaukee.

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"I'm a low-profile guy," Antetokounmpo told Marc Stein of the New York Times in 2017. "I don't like all these flashy cities like L.A. or Miami. I don't know if I could be the same player if I played in those cities."

Giannis could change his mind and someday want to be a Laker, but Kidd will be a small (or likely nonexistent) factor if that happens.