Lakers News: Buzz on Kawhi Leoanrd, D'Angelo Russell, Carmelo Anthony, More

Maurice Bobb@@ReeseReportFeatured ColumnistJune 27, 2019

Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard speaks at a news conference alongside the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player trophy after the Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of basketball's NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, June 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Ben Margot/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers have already defied expectations for the offseason by completing a blockbuster trade for Anthony Davis.

Now, the Lakers have their eyes set on rounding out a roster that will complement Davis and LeBron James and put them back on track for competing for an NBA championship.

To that end, the rumor mill is buzzing about potential moves that L.A. might be considering, including signing another superstar to bringing back former players to signing unexpected role players.

With the free agency moratorium period set to begin on June 30 (negotiations can officially begin at 6 p.m. ET), here's the latest Lakers news making the headlines.


Kawhi in Purple and Gold?

One of Yogi Berra's most famous sayings was, "It ain't over till it's over."

That could be what L.A. is thinking when it comes to Kawhi Leonard.

According to the New York Times' Marc Stein, the Lakers believe that they are "in the running" for the 2019 Finals MVP.

For most of this past season, Leonard was expected to either resign with the Toronto Raptors or sign with the Los Angeles Clippers.

So it would be a huge shock if he were to change course and join forces with James and Davis.

Leonard, who averaged a career-high 26.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, reportedly declined his $21.3 million player option on Sunday, making him one of the most coveted free agents this summer.

However, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported that the Raptors remain the favorites to resign the two-time Defensive Player of the Year.

"The appeal of returning home to Southern California is enticing to the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year," sources told Haynes. "But with the trust the Raptors built while Leonard led the franchise to its first NBA title by upsetting the Golden State Warriors, rival executives view his current team as the favorite to land him when the free-agent negotiating period begins June 30."

The 6'7" two-way forward landed in Toronto after a messy breakup with the San Antonio Spurs, the team that drafted him 2011 with the No. 15 overall pick.

The Spurs traded the three-time All-Star to the Raptors, along with Danny Green, in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a first-round draft pick.

Leonard didn't appear to be ecstatic about the deal, but he grew more comfortable with his new team as they allowed him to rest and utilize the "load management" approach to recovering from injury.

The trust the team built, and the fact that he won an NBA championship in his first year there, is a major reason why Leonard may choose to re-sign.

Additionally, Toronto is the only team that can offer him a max contract (five years, $190 million).

Teams like the Clippers or the Lakers can only offer four years, $140 million.

If returning to Southern California is more of a driving force for Leonard than money, it still may be a long shot to see him play with James and Davis.

L.A. only has about $23.7 million in cap space and would need cooperation from Davis, who would have to give up the $4 million trade kicker he's owed, and the New Orleans Pelicans, who would have to be willing to delay the completion of the trade to July 30, to get to $32.5 million.

Even if the Lakers can figure all of that out, $32.5 million is still not enough to reel in a player of Leonard's caliber.

It might be best for them to take that money and spend it on complementary players instead of trying to create their own Big 3.


D'Angelo Russell Back?

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 22: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers greets D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Brooklyn Nets before the start of their NBA basketball game at Staples Center on March 22, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User express
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Seller's remorse can be a routine occurrence after a deal is done, but it's not exactly common when it comes to NBA trades.

As strange as it sounds, though, that's where the Lakers could be with D'Angelo Russell just two years after dealing him and Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Brook Lopez and the 27th overall pick in the 2017 draft.

To be fair, a lot has changed in L.A. since 2017.

Magic Johnson is gone, and everyone from that year's team, including Nick Young, are no longer on the roster.

Russell infamously filmed Young admitting that he cheated on fiancee Iggy Azalea. The problem was, the confession was recorded without Young's consent.

Once the video got out, Russell was lambasted for his immaturity and later shipped off to Brooklyn.

But now, after logging a career-year in which he got his first All-Star nod and led the Nets to the playoffs, it appears that the Lakers are open to a reunion.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said on SportsCenter"The Lakers are waiting to see if D'Angelo Russell becomes an unrestricted free agent. If Kyrie Irving goes to Brooklyn and Brooklyn renounces his rights and allows him to become unrestricted, then he can fit right into the max salary slot that they would have there. And now you'd have D'Angelo Russell, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, essentially a big three. For LA, it would give them a playmaking guard that they desperately need. And I'm told D'Angelo Russell would be open to the idea.

"Their other option is to break up that money into two, three pieces. Perhaps a Darren Collison, a Terrence Ross, who can shoot. The Lakers have some options here. But D'Angelo Russell is at the top of that list."

Surprisingly, L.A.'s former president of basketball operations agrees with the idea of bringing Russell back.

"He's better now," Johnson told The Athletic's Bill Oram. "He's a different player. He's more mature."


Carmelo and LeBron Could be Joining Forces 

Kathy Willens/Associated Press

Carmelo Anthony has been looking for another opportunity to play in the NBA since his short-lived stint with the Houston Rockets came to an abrupt end last season after playing in just 10 games.

The 10-time All-Star signed a one-year, $2.4 million deal with the Rockets but only played in 10 games before the team announced that they were parting ways with the veteran forward.

But the 35-year old could be headed to L.A., according to Ian Begley of SNY: "Let's get this out of the way at the top: things can always change, but most executives monitoring Anthony's free agency see the Lakers as the most likely destination for the 10-time All-Star."

This would be the second time Anthony would be paired with one of his best friends.

Anthony played with Chris Paul last year, and he could soon be suiting up alongside James.

Known as an offensive wizard, Anthony could provide some much-needed scoring for the Lakers as they look to add shooters to the roster.

Last season, he averaged 13.4 points per game, a career-low.


JR Smith to Reunite with James?

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 31:  JR Smith #5 of the Cleveland Cavaliers dribbles in the closing seconds of regulation as LeBron James #23 attempts direct the offense against the Golden State Warriors  in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on May 31, 2018
Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The image of James looking at JR Smith in frustration from Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals is tattooed into NBA meme lore.

It was the result of perhaps the biggest blunder in Finals history.

With 4.7 seconds to go, Smith pulled down an offensive rebound on a missed George Hill free throw and instead of taking a game-winning shot, he pulled the ball out and the game went into overtime.

The Cleveland Cavaliers went on to get swept by the Golden State Warriors, and many were left to wonder how things could have been different had the Cavs stolen Game 1 in Oracle Arena.

Now, Smith could get a mulligan, at least with James, if the Lakers sign him this summer.

Yahoo Sports @YahooSports

Could LeBron and J.R. Smith reunite in Los Angeles? @ChrisBHaynes says don't rule it out 😬 https://t.co/skjhcGUrzc

According to Haynes, the 15-year veteran could sign with L.A. if he becomes a free agent: "When he's waived, it is my belief he will end up with the Lakers."

The Cavs are motivated to move their mercurial guard because his $15.6 million contract becomes fully guaranteed after Sunday.

According to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com, the team turned down offers on draft night for Smith for first-round picks.

If they can't move Smith by Sunday, they could enter the luxury tax, a move they would prefer to avoid.

"We're definitely going to investigate what we can do there," Cavs general manager Koby Altman told Fedor. "There's a pain threshold of doing it, going into the tax, which we would have to do in terms of taking back money and the rest of the NBA knowing that we're in the tax and my job would be getting us out of the tax.

"Is there enough value there to do that, to put ourselves out there like that? I think that's something we are weighing these last few days. There's opportunity to do it. It's just how deep do we want to go into the tax to bring back an asset? Also, what does it take us out of into the year? We're still looking to add assets throughout the year, so using JR now might take us out of that."

The best-case scenario for Cleveland would be to trade Smith, and the team that trades for him will more than likely waive him.

That would create a clear path for the Lakers to sign him.

Smith has had a tough road, but he did average 12.4 points while shooting 40 percent from three when he helped the Cavs come back from a 3-1 deficit in the 2016 NBA Finals to win its first-ever championship.


Statistics are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com

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