LeBron James explains not forcing Lakers to trade for Kawhi Leonard: “I love the young guys”

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Cleveland Cavaliers
Dec 14, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) throws a pass between Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonzo Ball (2) and forward Brandon Ingram (14) in the second quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

A huge topic of conversation this summer has been whether or not the Los Angeles Lakers have done enough to surround LeBron James with talent since he agreed to sign with the team. It’s no secret that the Lakers’ other free agent signings have been strange and sometimes uninspiring but the team has expressed that it has a plan that looks towards the future as much as the present.

The Lakers had a chance to trade for then-San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard but were unwilling to meet the hefty price tag to acquire the former defensive player of the year before he was traded to the Toronto Raptors. That left many wondering if the Lakers should have bit the bullet and surrendered their assets for Leonard, who is arguably a top-five player in the league when healthy.

As it turns out, the Lakers had no pressure to trade for Leonard after James had already committed to at least three seasons in Los Angeles. The superstar forward spoke about his interpretation of the trade negotiations in a sit-down interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols focused on the introduction of his new school in Akron:

RN: When you look at that roster, though, you’re the only All-Star on there. You could have told the Lakers, “Hey, I’d be willing to come, but please do what it takes to get Kawhi Leonard here, too.” Why didn’t you want to do that?

LJ: Because I love the young guys that they have, and I’m not trying to force my hand in no way, shape or form. I believe Rob [Pelinka] and Magic [Johnson] and Jeanie [Buss] have done an unbelievable job of reshaping what the organization should be, keeping Dr. Buss’ dreams and what he was all about, to keep that going. I feel like they know what’s best for the team, and I wanted to be a piece to continue that motion of being back to a championship franchise where they should be.

LeBron is arguably the smartest player in NBA history and he understands a thing or two about team-building. The crux of the matter is that the Lakers are not competing with the Warriors as presently constructed but they also would not compete with them if they sacrificed all their depth to attain Leonard. Realistically, they need both things to come true and James seems to have the confidence that the Lakers’ young core will establish itself as at least a strong foundational piece before the organization goes big-game hunting once again.

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