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The Lakers’ Kawhi Leonard trade pickle, explained

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We have that and more in Thursday’s NBA newsletter.

San Antonio Spurs v Golden State Warriors - Game One Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Lakers have re-engaged the Spurs on a potential Kawhi Leonard deal in the run-up to NBA free agency Sunday at midnight, ESPN’s veritable Dream Team of Ramona Shelburne, Adrian Wojnarowski, and Brian Windhorst reported late Wednesday. The Lakers are in a real pickle here. Let’s explain.

Why are the Lakers in “a real pickle here?”

Because Kawhi has indicated — according to reports — he plans to sign with the Lakers as a free agent next summer. Selling the farm to land him now might mean giving up key pieces unnecessarily. But waiting a year for Kawhi could have major ramifications for other player chases this summer.

How so?

ESPN reports the Lakers and Spurs, at least, believe that whether LeBron James joins LA as a free agent in a few freaking days hinges on whether the Lakers get Kawhi.

So, if the Lakers successfully nab Kawhi by Saturday, the odds go up that LeBron will join him there? Essentially, the Lakers are trading for both Kawhi and LeBron?

Essentially, though there’s absolutely no guarantee Kawhi will definitely bring in LeBron for the Lakers. There’s also no guarantee they’ll have Kawhi more than one year: he’s a free agent in 2019. He also played just nine games last season due to a mysterious injury.

So the Spurs have immense power here. Are they wielding it?

Uh, yeah. ESPN indicates they are looking to get back more than the Pacers and Cavaliers got back in the Paul George and Kyrie Irving deals, respectively.

Hey, Paul George — is he involved in this too?

Not directly in this particular pickle, though there is a chance that if the Lakers sign George they could bring in LeBron as well. That would be much cheaper and safer than trying to trade for Kawhi in a rush.

Would this all be more simple if PG and/or LeBron told everyone what they plan to do?

Well, yes.

Why don’t they?

Who’s to say they haven’t and all of this [motions to everything] isn’t a reaction?

This is unnecessarily complicated.

Welcome to NBA free agency.

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LeBron Quest III

We put together a fun little 8-bit adventure with six possible outcomes for LeBron’s free agent decision. The Sixers and Lakers outcomes are my favorite. You know Kobe has burner accounts dedicated solely to trolling LeBron.

Meanwhile, Paul Flannery offered up a tenative case for LeBron to remain in Cleveland and I wrote about how clues in LeBron’s 2014 Sports Illustrated piece with Lee Jenkins could inform what King James will do in 2018.

LeBron James: he’s kind of important.

Links galore

Marc Stein reports the Mavericks are trying to work out a deal to bring DeAndre Jordan to town in an opt-in-and-trade deal with the Clippers and, necessarily, Jordan’s camp. You may remember that various Clippers held Jordan hostage to prevent him from finalizing a deal with the Mavericks three years ago. This is a phenomenal turn of events.

As expected, Paul George will opt out of his $20 million deal with the Thunder for next season. This report was important for two reasons: its timing (before 7 a.m. ET three days before free agency begins) serves as a reminder to turn on notifications for Woj, and because Woj also reports PG is still very much considering re-upping with the Thunder.

The legend Kevin Broom writes that while it was time for the Wizards to trade Marcin Gortat, adding Austin Rivers was the wrong move.

Bruno Passos on the Kawhi saga revealing cracks in The Spurs Way.

The great Rob Mahoney with a deep dive into how LeBron would change the various teams chasing him.

Here’s an extremely June 2018 headline: “Isaiah Thomas says LeBron James is ‘definitely’ signing with Lakers in comment on Snoop Dogg’s Instagram.”

Becky Hammon has been promoted to the front row of assistant coaches in San Antonio.

In appreciation of the Las Vegas Aces.

Howard Beck on how Cleveland’s reaction to LeBron leaving might be different this time around.

The new season of China Klay is off to an inauspicious start.

The BIG3 has announced its players can use cannabidiol, found in marijuana and commonly solid as an oil, for pain relief. Will other leagues follow?

Be excellent to each other.