We wrote about this last week when Stephen A. Smith brought it up, but it's worth an update.
ESPN's Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst wrote about the Lakers upcoming summer of cap space, and how they would ideally like to add either Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James, and are investigating ways to add BOTH of the superstars.
The Los Angeles Lakers, whose plan to re-sign center Dwight Howard did not pan out this offseason, are poised to rebuild fast by focusing on the two biggest free agents of 2014 -- LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, front-office sources have told ESPN.
Opinions are split on whether the Lakers can actually land James or Anthony, with one source calling it "realistic" and another saying it was "far-fetched at this point." Nonetheless, the Lakers have made it clear they are positioning themselves for a run at one and perhaps even two of the superstars who could become free agents in 2014 by refusing to commit to any contract past this next season, multiple sources have said.
James, of course, is the biggest prize. But unlike in 2009, when James' free-agency options the following summer were on his mind, sources have told ESPN that James isn't even considering his 2014 decision yet.
"It's all wishful thinking at this point," a league source with knowledge of the situation told ESPN. "Teams are doing more wishing than LeBron is wanting right now.
"It's not about where LeBron wants to go [to win]. He already has two rings. If LeBron moved to Reno, teams would come to him."
Anthony's plans also remain unclear for next summer, but one source close to the situation told ESPN that it would "make sense" for him to exercise the early-termination option on his contract after next season to become a free agent and secure either a four- or five-year extension.
That makes it a challenge to handicap the Lakers' chances because their roster after this season is mostly a blank slate at this point. There's nothing to sell to James yet. Not even Kobe Bryant, who is in the final year of his contract, is guaranteed to be in the fold.
Bryant told ESPN last week that said that he wants to play at least two or three more seasons, but since there have not yet been any extension talks with the Lakers as he recovers from a ruptured Achilles tendon, it's pointless to talk about what he'd be willing to play for.
Bryant will be the highest-paid player in the league next season with a $30.5 million salary. For the Lakers to maintain enough room to pursue two max-level free agents, he'd need to play for quite a bit less.
"As a businessman the goal is always to not take a pay cut," Bryant said. "But ..."
Bryant told ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin last week that he intends to be involved in the Lakers' recruiting efforts for 2014 and is looped into the team's decision-making.
"It's an open conversation, via text and also meeting in person and just picking up the phone and calling," Bryant said of his involvement. "They've kept me in the loop pretty well."
When Dwight Howard chose Houston over LA, I tweeted that while that decision would undoubtedly make the Lakers worse in 2013-14, it may simply delay their return to prominence by a single season.
If, and it's still a sizable if, Kobe takes less money (say $10-13 million per season) in his next contract, the Lakers will be able to bring in two max level players join Bryant in Los Angeles next summer. As of now, only Steve Nash and Robert Sacre are under contract for 2014-15, and Nash can either be waived via the stretch provision (cutting his cap hit to just over $3 million), or dealt to a team below the cap ala Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins a few weeks ago.
Considering Bryant's rep among other players, and Los Angeles' allure, the Lakers could find themselves involved with several members of the vaunted 2014 free agent class. While a LeBron-Carmelo-Kobe trio just doesn't make sense unless the NBA allows teams to play with a 2nd ball, what about Dirk Nowitzki, LeBron and Kobe? Or if Sacramento finally gets sick of DeMarcus Cousins (who is a restricted free agent next summer), what about Cousins, Kobe and LeBron?
While Howard is undoubtedly among the best centers of his era, the Lakers may end up lucking into a new franchise player in just 12 months time. While LeBron seems happy in Miami, the thought of playing out the rest of his prime with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh must be a bit daunting to him with young, talented teams sprouting up across the league.
Instead LeBron could head to LA, and play with Kobe and "Free agent X" for a few seasons before Bryant retires, and a new stud takes his place.
For Celtics fans, this is the worst case scenario. LeBron trying to single handedly win titles with an aging Bosh and Wade sounds much more appealing than him heading to LA and potentially starting the next Lakers dynasty.
Follow Mike on twitter - Mike_Dyer13 Michael Dyer 7/17/2013 03:44:00 PM Tweet