Report: Lakers pressured to trade for Kawhi Leonard to lure LeBron James

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at San Antonio Spurs
Mar 27, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers small forward LeBron James (23) looks to pass the ball as San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) defends during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATE: Roughly 12 hours after the first report, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne has stated the Lakers and Spurs were engaged in trade talks with Los Angeles aggressively pursuing Kawhi Leonard.

The negotiations between the two is a stark contrast to the stance San Antonio took just a week ago in which they would not engage in trade talks.

The Lakers pursuing Leonard “aggressively” could also indicate that LeBron James coming to LA could be a real possibility. Even if it wasn’t before, landing Kawhi with room for another max free agent is as good of a recruiting pitch as any.

The Los Angeles Times’ Tania Ganguli confirmed the report, with the added measure that the meeting was “productive.”

The 2018 NBA Free Agency period is just around the corner which means rumors and transactions are heating up.

LeBron James has until Friday to decide whether he will opt into his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers or hit free agency. All signs have indicated that the star is choosing between his hometown Cavs and the Los Angeles Lakers.

However, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne, James is not inclined to be the first star to join LA this summer and wants a guarantee of having productive teammates join him. As such, the Lakers are feeling “pressured” to trade for Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, who requested a trade from San Antonio recently.

As LeBron James remains hesitant to be the first superstar to decide on the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency, pressure is mounting for the Lakers front office to execute a trade with the San Antonio Spurs to acquire disgruntled All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard, league sources told ESPN.

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.

Another preference by James that could impact free agency, league sources said, is that he wants to make a decision quickly in July free agency.

The Lakers reportedly had the “door shut” on them when they approached a trade for the disgruntled Spurs star last week as the Spurs have held firm on trading him to the Eastern Conference. But according to ESPN, that may no longer be the case as the Spurs have listened to offers and have determined they are willing to trade the former defensive player of the year to any destination.

The Spurs seem to be holding out for maximum leverage in order to get the best possible trade package for their star. Leonard has made it clear his preferred destination is Los Angeles while informing teams that he will only sign with the Lakers when he hits free agency in 2019.

Sean Deveney of Sporting News is reporting that league executives believe James may be willing to sign in LA without assurances of other stars but that is a risk that the Lakers have to weigh. LAL president Magic Johnson recently made an ultimatum that he would step down from his position if the Lakers don’t overhaul the roster with stars within the next two years.

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