LeBron James has been hard at work this offseason trying to ensure the Los Angeles Lakers do not face another first-round exit next season. Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes reported James made a recruiting pitch for DeMar DeRozan to join the Lakers prior to the team making a blockbuster trade for Russell Westbrook.
“James understood the importance of bringing in a third star at this juncture of his career,” Haynes explained. “San Antonio Spurs unrestricted free agent DeMar DeRozan was in talks with James, sources said, but the Westbrook deal eliminated that option because it would have required a sign-and-trade scenario and a Kuzma inclusion. The Lakers are not done making moves.”
As Haynes indicated, the Lakers acquisition of Westbrook make it more challenging for DeRozan to head to Los Angeles. Not only do the Lakers lack cap space, but they are sending the majority of their tradeable assets to the Wizards in the Westbrook deal.
DeRozan on Free Agency Decision: ‘It’s All About Winning at This Point’
DeRozan could sign with the Lakers for the team’s $5.9 million exception but that is far below what the four-time All-Star will command on the open market. The guard averaged 21.6 points, 6.9 assists and 4.2 rebounds for the Spurs last season. Earlier this offseason, DeRozan admitted he was open to returning home to Los Angeles, but the Lakers situation has changed since the team pulled off their latest blockbuster deal.
“It’s all about winning at this point,” DeRozan told Shannon Sharpe on the Club Shay Shay show. “Going into my 13th season, seeing all these guys compete for a championship. …You try to balance it [money versus winning] as best as you can, but at this point, you gotta weigh out the opportunity of winning a championship kind of more. Especially with the career I’ve had, I’ve been fortunate to make a lot of money, but at this point the ultimate goal was always to compete for a championship.”
The Westbrook Trade ‘Put the Brakes’ on DeRozan Joining the Lakers: Report
According to Los Angeles Times’ Broderick Turner, DeRozan was willing to take less money to join the Lakers. The question is whether the shooting guard will concede to losing a lot of money now that the most the Lakers can realistically offer DeRozan is their exception. The Lakers could also utilize Talen Horton-Tucker, Alex Caruso or Dennis Schroder in a double sign-and-trade with the Spurs, but that would depend on San Antonio’s interest in those players.
After the Westbrook trade, Turner reported that it is likely too big of a pay cut for the Lakers to still be a top contender for DeRozan. The Lakers could try to offer a one-year prove-it deal, but DeRozan will likely find a lucrative long-term contract elsewhere. The Lakers’ crosstown rival is another team to watch in the DeRozan sweepstakes.
“DeRozan had his sights set on joining the Lakers as a free agent and coming home to play for his favorite team while growing up in Compton,” Turner detailed. “But Russ put the brakes on that. DeRozan made $27 million last season and probably doesn’t want to take that big of a pay cut. So, for the Clippers to sign DeRozan, they probably would have to do a sign-and-trade. But watch out for Dallas possibly being a home for DeRozan.”