It appears the Los Angeles Lakers and D’Angelo Russell have interest in letting bygones be bygones heading into NBA free agency. After the Lakers traded Russell to the Brooklyn Nets previously, the two have been linked as a potential free agency fit. Up until now, though, it’s been all rumblings and hope from some fans that the pairing could work out.
Although much of that chatter cooled off with the team’s interest appearing to be fully locked on Kawhi Leonard or Kyrie Irving, it began to heat up again on Saturday. As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported, the Lakers reached out to Russell’s agents at CAA to set up a meeting.
This comes shortly after a report came that former Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving was expected to sign with the Brooklyn Nets, as Wojnarowski also revealed.
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Navigating the Lakers’ Free Agency Focus
The good news is that Wojnarowski points to the fact that Russell also has interest in returning to the Lakers. But it doesn’t help clarify anything on the team’s free agency focus at this point, as the belief is that they still want to lock in on attempting to sign Leonard and appear to have a meeting set.
But while the plan to meet with Russell is a wise one, it’s worth noting that Marc Stein of the New York Times revealed that there’s a strong belief the Lakers are the biggest threat to sign Leonard. He points out that the team believes they’ve got the Raptors “and anyone else” beat in the pursuit of the All-Star forward.
The timing of the Lakers attempting to line up a meeting with Russell makes sense, especially when considering that Irving may verbally agree to his deal with the Nets once free agency starts. And as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Stephen A. Smith pointed out earlier this week (courtesy of LakeShowWorld), Leonard and Irving were the two names the Lakers planned to go after immediately.
D’Angelo Russell’s Fit With Lakers & Potential Signing
Although things didn’t work out with Russell and the Lakers the first time around, the 23-year-old guard proceeded to thrive during his final season with the Nets. After averaging 14.3 points and 4.0 assists over two seasons in Los Angeles, this past year was a breakout campaign for Russell.
Along with being named an NBA All-Star, Russell averaged career-highs in points (21.1), assists (7.0) field goal percentage (43.4) and 3-point percentage (36.9). It’s widely believed that he’d be an ideal fit to play alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis with the Lakers, but whether or not that pans out could depend largely on Leonard’s decision.
If the Lakers truly are all-in on signing Leonard, they wouldn’t have the salary cap space to sign any other top options. Currently, they’re floating right at the number to be able to offer a max contract in free agency, which would surely result in Russell talking to other teams.
On the other side of that, if Leonard chooses to return to Toronto or sign elsewhere, the Lakers could be in a position to step up and sign Russell shortly after. The focus of the front office at this point remains a talking point, and it’s unlikely we’ll receive clarity until after 6 p.m. ET on Sunday.