The pursuit of Kawhi Leonard in NBA free agency is heating up, and the Los Angeles Lakers appear to have a lead, at least in their own minds. This stems largely from the fact that there have been rumblings that both LeBron James and Magic Johnson have put on the full-court press with recruiting. Beyond that, the pairing also may have added some extra reason for positivity if you’re a Lakers fan.
According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, the Lakers believe they’re “firmly in the lead” for Leonard, thanks to recruiting effort and “assurances” from LeBron and Magic.
“The Lakers, as we’ve been saying for more than a week now, believe they are firmly in the lead largely through the recruiting efforts and assurances made on separate fronts from Magic Johnson and LeBron James …”
This is a big deal, as it points to the fact that both LeBron and Magic have been active in the recruitment process. While Johnson’s role was expected (as an outsider) and there was chatter that James would get in the mix, this means the Lakers current star has put himself in the middle of the team’s pursuit.
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LeBron James’ Reported Pitch Includes Son, Bronny James
In one of the most interesting aspects of the Lakers’ push to sign Leonard in free agency, chatter around LeBron’s pitch specifically stood out. As Heavy.com’s Jon Adams transcribed, ESPN’s Ryen Russillo addressed James’ rumored pitch on a recent episode of The Woj Pod.
Per Russillo, LeBron is hoping to preserve his body in order to play with his son, Bronny, at some point in the future.
From what I’ve heard, and I know you trust me with this just because I have these weird relationships, especially living out here in Los Angeles now. The Kawhi pitch, whether it is from the Lakers or LeBron, is this: LeBron is basically saying, ‘Hey, this is going to be your team in two years.’ I have heard this for years, but LeBron at one point wants to play with his son.
And depending on when that happens, that is going to be his priority and that may not be with the Lakers. So, I don’t know when that is going to be and that [is why LeBron is] willing to defer. LeBron is saying for the first time in his basketball life that he is willing to defer the style of play.
The reported angle of James’ recruiting pitch to Leonard is interesting, but it’s also a fairly strong one. LeBron is 34 years old and as Adams points out in his story, his son couldn’t go attempt to make the leap to the NBA until 2022 or 2023 at the earliest.
If the league changes its rule and allows high school players to enter and forego college, Bronny could enter the NBA draft in 2023 when he graduates. Another potential option could be for him to reclassify and try to make the jump one year early.