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The Lakers march toward manifest destiny with third superstar hunt

LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts in front of Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Pelicans

Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

MEMO

FROM: LOS ANGELES LAKERS ORGANIZATION (check that; the whole darn town)

TO: ANTHONY DAVIS (we gotcha!)

DATED: ASAP

TOPIC: OUR CASA IS YOUR CASA

Dear Anthony,

Welcome aboard, Mr. Davis, and please – make yourself at home. Anything we can do to help expedite that process, well, just say the word. Or tap on our convenient app. Either way, we’re all over it.

Meantime, presumably, you’re engaged in ongoing conversations with LeBron (yeah; that LeBron), who no doubt’s savoring this moment as much as the rest of us are. As you’d undoubtedly imagine, we’re absolutely giddy over the very idea of the two of you working your magic in tandem on the same side of the court. Just thinking about it makes us giddier than when you really don’t want to take the stairs and Angel Flight is actually operational. The possibilities give Lakers Nation™ the shivers.

Not that we didn’t sort of anticipate LeBron pulling his well-connected strings to create another dynasty for us. No, wait. Sort of? I mean, we somehow convinced our fans that last year wasn’t just a throwaway season. They really thought assembling the Dream Meme Team around our “young core” (aka trade fodder) was somehow in an effort to “win games” and that LeBron’s sights weren’t set on LeRecruiting, LeNetworking, and LeDinners with championship-caliber assets such as yourself.

Anyway, enjoy your time in LA. The promises we made to Dwight Howard about banners and statues in his honor didn’t count on our monkey paw so they can now apply to you!

Certainly, though, we’re all counting on things at Staple Center to get off on a majorly roll next season. Vegas seems to agree, already installing them as favorites for next season, according to CBS Sports. That’s right, the Lakers aren’t the only ones thinking big, big guy.


 

Of course, Lakers fans know the season will kick off without the haul the New Orleans Pelicans collected in exchange for Davis: Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, three first round picks and a number of future pick swaps, stated CBSsports.com. But, hey; gotta give to get, right?

 

While that’s obvious, at least one question that’s emerged since the blockbuster: will the Lakers add another superstar to LeBron and Davis, noted NESN.com. After all, why not stretch the play into a triple?

 

Alas, as intriguing as that might sound, on SportsCenter, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski basically put a damper on the prospect of that taking place. What a killjoy. But seriously, his reasoning goes like this: it essentially comes down to the timing of the Davis transaction. If the teams held off until July 30 to make the trade official, however, the Lakers would have $32.5 million in cap space. And bingo; that’s enough to ink a max-level free agent.

 

“There’s no A-list star who’s going to take that kind of discount — really even any of the B-list stars,” Wojnarowski told the show. “So right now it looks like they would probably want to break up that $23-24 million to bring in multiple players, and given how barren the rest of their roster is right now — they don’t even have a starting five — that’s probably the better route for the Lakers to go.”

 

That seems to suggest the Lakers probably can cross the likes of Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson or Kawhi Leonard off their list, the site reported. In fact, Wojnarowski reported that Leonard appeared headed to the Clippers, and only if he high tails it out of Toronto. Meantime, Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes said Walker and Butler are top priorities for the Lakers, sources said, according to LakersNation.

 

That said, another name that’s surfaced is point guard Kyrie Irving. Once expected to be headed to the Knicks or Nets to team with Kevin Durant, that scenario took a major turn in the aftermath of Durant rupturing his Achilles in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. It could mean that Irving’s might take his talents out west instead, according to MSN.com. At least that’s what former Bull Scottie Pippen believes Irving should opt for in free agency.

 

“I still think that, you know, Kyrie over the past couple seasons has seen a lot of things in his career and I think the comfort that he has with LeBron — familiarity, opportunity to win a championship with AD as well. It makes it a no-brainer,” Pippen said on ESPN’s “The Jump.” “Now, do you want to go to New York, be frustrated and play with losers pretty much? Because they haven’t proved they can win. Bad teams find a way to lose. At the end of the day, this is a great fit for Kyrie. I think it’s an opportunity for him to reunite with LeBron and get to the top of the NBA again.”

 

But it’s not all about the big names; among free agent targets the Lakers are eyeing are some mid-level middle possibilities, reported Sportingnews.com. That includes 30-year-old forward Bojan Bogdanovic. Last season, he averaged 18.0 points on 49.7 percent shooting (42.5 percent on 3-pointers) in 81 games. Additionally, two-time NBA champion Danny Green shot 45.5 percent from deep for the Raptors during the 2018-19 season. JJ Redick’s another possibility, the site stated. He’s a career 41.3 percent 3-point shooter.

 

Others include veteran Darren Collison; DeMarcus Cousins, whom LeBron previously has expressed interest in playing with; Derrick Favors, who’s solid on both ends; and Jeremy Lamb, who averaged 15.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last season, according to Sporting News.

 

Now, chewing the fat over names and fantasy leagues is one thing; grousing about the salary cap and money’s another. But, drats, it’s another of those necessary evils.

 

With that in mind, CBS Sports reported the final version of the Davis deal might yet be completed. ESPN’s Wojnarowski and Bobby Marks noted that the Lakers are in the process of trying to rework the deal with the Pelicans in order to create room for a max salary slot. Such cap logistics would involve Davis waiving his trade bonus and the Lakers offering multiple players, including Moe Wagner and Isaac Bonga, to other teams to increase their outgoing salary. Via ESPN: The Lakers were engaging additional teams to take on the contracts of three of the remaining four players on the team’s roster — Mo Wagner, Isaac Bonga and Jemerrio Jones — league sources said. Kyle Kuzma and James are the only other two Lakers remaining on the team’s end-of-season roster.

 

Wagner and Bonga are set to make $2.063 million and $1.663 million, respectively, next season, according to IBTimes.com.

 

Lakers Free Agency Rumors: Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler ‘Top Priorities’ After Anthony Davis Trade

 

From a salary cap point of view, LakersNation.com reported the team might actually rue certain components of acquiring Davis.

 

During an appearance on “The Jump,” ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne said the team could have less cap space to pursue a third star to pair with Davis and LeBron James because of the way it handled the transaction.

 

“This is all so unnecessary, too,” she noted. “The way this trade was constructed, this should have been first and foremost on their minds as they were talking to the Pelicans … If this was really their plan, they want to have a third star, this should have been central to their conversations with the Pelicans. My understanding is, it was not. It went all the way down the road and it has been described to me as the Lakers called back after everything had been discussed about this.”

 

On top of that, the Lakers didn’t ask Davis to waive his trade kicker, which would have given them an extra $4.1 million to spend this summer, according to a report from Bleacher Report.

 

In Irving’s case, for instance, he’d likely need to take a pay cut in order to join the Lakers, reported MSN.com.

 

Meantime, in the midst of all these moving parts, it seems former NBAer Ryan Hollins is a huge believer in the Lakers, proclaiming, for example, the Lakers being the greatest team of all this year, reported USA Today. In fact, the site noted ex-Laker Shaquille O’Neal’s frustration over Hollin’s remarks.

 

The conversation on the show went like this:

 

Shaq: “You said LeBron James is the greatest player ever? What about Michael and Kobe? So you’re just going to pass Kobe up like that?”

 

Hollins: “I’m going to pass Kobe up, I’m going to look at Michael.”

 

Eventually, Shaq grabbed Hollins’ First Take mug and took a whiff, joking “Oh, I knew it. Patron, America.”

 

On that note, after the Lakers’ traded for Davis, the run on season tickets for Lakers games didn’t materialize: nearly all of them were already sold, reported The LA Times.

 

No need, however, to sell anyone on Davis.