Just yesterday, Los Angeles Lakers president Magic Johnson said he felt “no pressure” to bring big name players to the purple and gold.
Today, however, an ESPN report is claiming that the Lakers are feeling “pressure” to land Kawhi Leonard from the San Antonio Spurs before LeBron James is forced to make a contract decision on on Friday:
As LeBron James remains hesitant to be the first superstar to decide on the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency, pressure is mounting for the Lakers front office to execute a trade with the San Antonio Spurs to acquire disgruntled All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard, league sources told ESPN.
There’s a race to secure Leonard before James is faced with deciding whether to become a free agent on Friday, especially with concern that Oklahoma City’s Paul George is no longer assured of signing with the Lakers, league sources said.
James has to decide by Friday whether he wants to opt into the final year of his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Doing so could make it harder for the Lakers to acquire him.
The Spurs will likely be in no rush to trade Leonard, and may instead decide to wait it out until the trade deadline in February. If by then they still haven’t patched things up with their star, then there will be willing takers on the trade market.
However, if Leonard makes it crystal clear that he only wants to sign with the Lakers, teams may be reluctant to give up major pieces for him at the deadline – or even now. The idea of a one-year rental would likely cause teams to hold back their best assets in trade talks.
If the Lakers want to land Kawhi now, they they’re going to have to present the Spurs with an offer they can’t refuse.
It’s yet to be seen whether the Lakers will actually part ways with their young talent, though.
Yesterday, Johnson said he felt “no pressure” to lure stars to L.A., stating that he’d be in 9 NBA Finals, according to SB Nation:
“No pressure on me. I’m gonna do my job. I’ve always done that,” Johnson said. “Look I’ve been playing in… You know how many Finals I’ve been in? So you think I’m worried about this? I’ve played against Larry Bird in the Finals. C’mon man. I’ve been in nine Finals. I’ve been in college, NCAA Championships.”
Johnson was then interrupted when reporter Bill Plaschke said, “Yeah, but this is a different job.”
His response was, “I’m Magic Johnson. I’m still the same dude. I’m not gonna change. There’s no pressure on me. I’m gonna do my job. I’m excited. It’s fun. I’m looking forward to it.”
The ESPN report also stated that the Lakers were willing to take on salary for the 2018-19 season if it means being able to acquire a first-round pick that could be used to sweeten any potential deal with the Spurs.