There's a race to secure Leonard before James is faced with deciding whether to become a free agent on Friday, especially with concern that Oklahoma City's Paul George is no longer assured of signing with the Lakers, league sources said. The only problem is that the initial conversations between the two teams did not go well, the network previously reported.
While the Lakers had once seemed like a front-runner for Leonard, a Los Angeles native, once he hit free agency, that was also previously the case with George. Sources have told ESPN that the Spurs haven't ruled out making a trade with any specific team.
However, the Lakers likely can't wait until 2019 to acquire both Leonard and James, although that's not out of the question, and they might not even be able to wait until the weekend to ramp up trade negotiations with San Antonio.
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On Tuesday, Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson laughed off the idea of being anxious about the pressure to bring superstars to Los Angeles, citing the number of NBA Finals he played in. The price for Leonard would have to include some combination of Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and more.
The Celtics could likely trump any trade offer for Leonard, with their vast collection of future first-round draft picks and a current roster littered with young and promising talent. Acquired by the team in a trade with the Indiana Pacers, George averaged 21.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 79 games this season for the Thunder.
Last week, Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports reported (via RealGM) that the Spurs aren't interested in Ball because of the "circus" that comes with the 20-year-old. The agent reasoned that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich only wants to compete for championships, and keeping Leonard helps him accomplish that, regardless of Leonard's wishes. On top of that, there are several other teams with valuable assets that are looking into the possibility of trading for Leonard, including the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers.