Arguably the biggest remaining step in the Los Angeles Lakers’ offseason checklist is retaining Kentavious Caldwell-Pope but that is proving more difficult than imagined. The Lakers have triggered a hard cap and that is limiting the amount of money they can spend to keep their shooting guard. KCP, fresh off a postseason run as the Lakers’ third-best player, is understandably looking for a payday.
The Lakers’ saving grace may just be how quickly the market is drying up. Only three teams remain with significant cap space to sign KCP: the Atlanta Hawks (who may invest most, if not all, that money in an offer sheet for Bogdan Bogdanovic), the Charlotte Hornets, and the New York Knicks. The Knicks seemingly have an interest in signing the free agent. SNY’s Ian Begley first reported that other teams believe the Knicks will monitor KCP’s free agency and on Saturday, the LA Times’ Brad Turner confirmed that interest:
Sources: The New York Knicks have interest in free agent guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Lakers also have interest. For KCP, he wants the right deal at the right price.
— Brad Turner (@BA_Turner) November 21, 2020
Could the Knicks actually have an interest in Caldwell-Pope? Sure. He’s a good player and they desperately need more good players. Even if new team president Leon Rose has almost exclusively pursued CAA clients, there’s nothing stopping him from even overpaying Caldwell-Pope on a short-term deal. KCP has seemingly had an open mind to return to the Lakers but ultimately, money talks.
More likely, however, is that Rich Paul and Klutch Sports, who represent the sharp-shooter, are trying to get any leverage they can by claiming that the few teams that have cap space left want to sign him. That puts all the more pressure on the Lakers to put a competitive offer on the table to keep him. So right now, the Lakers can continue to wait for the market to dry up further until KCP has no options to sign elsewhere, or try to make moves (such as trading JaVale McGee for effectively nothing) to create just a little more breathing room to retain their second-most important free agent.
It’s going to be a long negotiating period.