Prior to the Los Angeles Lakers landing All-Star forward LeBron James in free agency on a four-year, $153 million deal, there was much chatter surrounding the team’s strong interest in acquiring All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard from the San Antonio Spurs.
Although the Lakers were still able to sign James to a deal without Leonard being in place, there was still an opportunity to trade for the two-time Defensive Player of the Year but the team never truly put forth a serious effort to land him. With that in mind, James revealed on Wednesday to Rachael Nichols of ESPN that he didn’t make a strong push toward the front office in the direction of acquiring Leonard due to his strong admiration for the Lakers’ current crop of young talent. (h/t Dave McMenamin of ESPN)
“Because I love the young guys that they have, and I’m not trying to force my hand in no way, shape or form,” James said. “I believe Rob and Magic and Jeanie have done an unbelievable job of kind of reshaping what the organization should be in the last few years and keeping Dr. [Jerry] Buss and his dreams and what he was all about, to keep that going. So I feel like they know what’s best for the team, and I wanted to be a piece to kind of continue that motion on coming back and being back to a championship franchise where they should be.”
It was widely reported that the Spurs had made it clear that there was a high asking price for the Lakers to even have a real chance of landing Leonard. It is believed that San Antonio had eyes on landing Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and Kyle Kuzma along with a pair of first-round picks in any deal for the All-Star forward. Los Angeles never truly engaged in that conversation with things never getting as far as Ingram being included any of the dialogue from their side of things that eventually led to the Toronto Raptors swooping in to make a deal.
Each of these players along with Lonzo Ball has shown some promise to become high-impact players moving forward in their respective development. Kuzma has already shown that he can be a capable scorer from various spots on the floor in his first campaign that has the organization quite high on his potential. Meanwhile, Ingram experienced a tremendous leap forward in his second campaign this past season becoming a more effective scorer while showing more poise with decision making on shot selection.
Although it is just Summer League, Hart displayed much improvement in his game by being a more well-rounded scorer with his ability to get to the rim with more body control while becoming a better knockdown 3-point shooter. Lastly, Ball has displayed impressive court vision along with the unselfish nature of his play that has rubbed off in a positive manner on his teammates. Granted, his shooting ability has drawn the most criticism, it’s an area he can improve in.
These continued steps forward in their development along with the opportunity to play alongside and learn from James could bode well for their careers along with being instrumental in lifting the franchise back to prominence in the NBA and possibly contend for a title over the next few seasons.
Bob Garcia IV
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