Lakers Rumors: Kyrie Irving 'As Much a Target' as Kawhi Leonard with Max Space

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistJune 28, 2019

Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James, right, and Boston Celtics' Kyrie Irving chat during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, March 9, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

Kyrie Irving "remains as much a target" as Kawhi Leonard in free agency for the Los Angeles Lakers after the club created enough cap space for a max contract, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Thursday that Los Angeles now has $32 million available after trading Mo Wagner, Isaac Bonga and Jemerrio Jones to the Washington Wizards and getting impending acquisition Anthony Davis to waive his $4 million trade bonus.

Irving has been linked to Los Angeles since he revealed in January he called Lakers star LeBron James to apologize for his behavior when the two were teammates with the Cleveland Cavaliers:

The two shared a court in Cleveland for three years, reaching three consecutive Finals while delivering the franchise's first championship in 2016. Their run came to an end in 2017, though, as Irving forced his way out of town due to his desire to no longer play alongside James.

The relationship between James and Irving has improved as time has gone on, with the two even reuniting as teammates during the past two NBA All-Star Games.

Acquiring Davis appears to have increased the Lakers' chances with Irving, as The Athletic's David Aldridge noted earlier this month that "sources have maintained for months [Irving] wants to play with Davis."

Meanwhile, opening a max slot could help persuade two-time Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard to leave the Toronto Raptors for Los Angeles—and not for the Clippers. As Leonard forced his way out of San Antonio last summer, Wojnarowski reported the Southern California native was eyeing an L.A. homecoming, adding that Leonard still "wants to be a Laker" following the signing of James.

ESPN.com's Michael C. Wright said on the Back to Back podcast on the Count The Dings Network in July 2018 that Leonard preferred the Clippers over the Lakers "because he doesn't want to go and be second fiddle to LeBron." Momentum appeared to still be in the Clippers' favor as Wojnarowski reported earlier this month that Leonard has his eyes on the Clippers because of his preference not to be a third wheel.

However, Wojnarowski revealed earlier this week that Leonard has been paying attention to the Lakers' cap space situation.

He will meet with the Lakers as well as the Clippers in free agency, according to Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes.

Free agency gets underway Sunday at 6 p.m. ET.

Related

    IT Out 6-8 Weeks After Thumb Surgery

    Wizards guard hurt his thumb playing pickup with teammates

    NBA logo
    NBA

    IT Out 6-8 Weeks After Thumb Surgery

    Wizards guard hurt his thumb playing pickup with teammates

    Scott Polacek
    via Bleacher Report

    Who Is Better: Russ or Big O? 🔍

    Our writer picks the winner in five categories to see who comes out on top

    NBA logo
    NBA

    Who Is Better: Russ or Big O? 🔍

    Our writer picks the winner in five categories to see who comes out on top

    Andy Bailey
    via Bleacher Report

    The 3 Superstars Who Defined This NBA Decade

    Los Angeles Lakers logo
    Los Angeles Lakers

    The 3 Superstars Who Defined This NBA Decade

    ESPN.com
    via ESPN.com

    Steph: 'I Wish We Could Still Play With' KD

    NBA logo
    NBA

    Steph: 'I Wish We Could Still Play With' KD

    Tim Daniels
    via Bleacher Report