The Los Angeles Lakers nearly had a “big three” that no one saw coming, according to a new report.
The Athletic’s Anthony Slater reported on Wednesday that the Lakers were a legitimate suitor for now-Golden State guard D’Angelo Russell, who has a not so glorious history in Los Angeles. The Lakers took Russell with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft, but he was shipped off to the Brooklyn Nets for Brook Lopez, the rights to Kyle Kuzma and the 27th pick in the 2017 NBA draft.
It took some time, but Russell blossomed into one of the top guards in the league last season, making his first All-Star team.
For the Lakers, the hangup was that they were still waiting on Kawhi Leonard’s decision. And there’s also the fact that the Lakers were not planning to offer the full max to Russell, although playing alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis might have been enough to attract most.
Here’s how Slater reported it:
Russell only wanted serious bidders and, sources say, he had three: The Lakers — wouldn’t that have been quite the reunion? — nearing a potential $100 million offer but in limbo until Kawhi Leonard made his choice, the Wolves, up over $100 million but still needing to create cap room to get to his max, and the Warriors, offering the full max in a complicated sign-and-trade involving Durant.
Russell is averaging 22 points on a 5-21 Golden State team that has been ravaged by injury, but he should have a chance to develop alongside All-Star guard Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry once they return.
Lakers Doing Just Fine With LeBron James, Anthony Davis Leading the Way
The Lakers didn’t get their third “star” to play alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but the team is rolling with a 22-3 record behind the duo.
“For me and AD we just, it starts with us,” James told reporters on Sunday after a lopsided 142-125 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. “If we’re on the same page it makes it a lot easier for the rest of the ball-club and that’s both on and off the floor. So we’re just trying to lead by example, lead by command, lead by our voices, lead by our play and see where it takes us.”
Davis and James are accounting for 45.7% of the Lakers’ points scored this season. Davis is averaging 27.7 points, nine rebounds and 2.7 blocks, while LeBron is netting 25.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 10.8 assists.
The Lakers role players — especially guys like Alex Caruso, Dwight Howard — have also stepped up to support the stars. If the team had decided to pay a third star, it’s uncertain how the supporting cast high have looked.
“They’re both guys that will make the right play, and they’re willing passers,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said of James and Davis. “So on paper the pieces fit. So far in this regular season we’re off to a good start, but it still is just to a good start.”
Lakers Down Magic to Maintain NBA’s Best Record
The Lakers are heading east for a massive five-game road trip that closes with a matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks on Dec. 19. The Bucks have matched the Lakers incredible 22-3 start.
But first up was a trip to Orlando to take on the Magic, which the Lakers won 96-87 with a gritty effort. James had 25 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, collecting his sixth triple-double of the season.
The game also marked the return of guard Avery Bradley, who had been sidelined with a hairline fracture in his leg. He played 17 minutes but notching just two points. He did grab a pair of rebounds and finished plus-12, behind only Jared Dudley and Alex Caruso.