Lakers given Kawhi Leonard trade hope
The Los Angeles Lakers’ pursuit of disgruntled Spurs star Kawhi Leonard looked set to rumble on for another year with neither team able to agree on a deal that would allow the 27-year-old to leave.
Spurs general manager RC Buford is believed to have demanded the Lakers part with one or more of their young core – Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart or Brandon Ingram – as well as a package of future draft picks in order to acquire the 2014 Finals MVP this summer.
Leonard has made it known he is willing to turn down the opportunity to sign a five-year $219m super-max contract extension with the Spurs this summer to push through a trade and will likely become an unrestricted free agent in 2019.
Lakers GM Rob Pelinka and team president Magic Johnson appear reluctant to pay the premium for Leonard, knowing he could be acquired for free in less than 12 months’ time – but fresh claims from Fox Sports’ Cris Carter suggest they could get their hands on “The Claw” ahead of their expected timeline.
During an appearance on First Things First last night, Carter claimed Spurs coach Gregg Popovich had promised Leonard, who is determined to play for the Lakers, he would be traded to a destination that would make him “happy”.
“Kawhi, in meeting with Pop, Pop gave him every indication that he was going to trade him and he was going to try to make Kawhi happy,” Carter explained.
“I never said that before because I was holding it until now.
“So all these discussions about Kawhi going to the East – I believe Popovich is trying to accommodate Kawhi and trying to please him.”
The news appears to contradict suggestions last month that the Spurs are unwilling to entertain trading Leonard to a Western Conference rival, offering a lifeline to Lakers fans hopeful of seeing Leonard suit up alongside LeBron James next season.
Jimmy Butler drops Spurs hint
Minnesota Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler is reportedly less than happy with his current situation only a year after being traded from the Chicago Bulls.
The 28-year-old joined a promising young roster featuring the likes of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins when he hooked up with former coach Tom Thibodeau – but the situation has not worked out as well as Wolves fans might have imagined.
A report from Chicago Sun-Times reporter Joe Cowley last month intimated Butler had run out of patience with “the nonchalant attitudes of younger teammates – specifically Karl-Anthony Towns” and was considering his options.
Butler is eligible to sign an extension with the Timberwolves this summer but may instead decide to opt out in 2019 to become a free agent.
While he is yet to comment publicly on the situation in Minnesota, an eagle-eyed fan on Instagram caught Butler ‘liking’ a comment advocating a move away from the team in the near future.
The post read simply: “Jimmy to Spurs.”
Fellow Team USA alumni Kyrie Irving is believed to be keen on playing alongside Butler in the near future and with both All-Stars believed to be readying for a 2019 trip into free agency, the partnership is certainly not beyond the realm of possibility.
Carmelo Anthony: Houston Rockets or Miami Heat
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony moved closer to choosing his next move this week, meeting with officials from both the Houston Rockets and Miami Heat during Summer League in Las Vegas.
The 34-year-old had a torrid time during his first – and likely last – season with the OKC, eventually being relegated to a bench role before becoming virtually unplayable during the Thunder’s postseason.
After a summer of aggressive recruitment – including the re-signing of Paul George to a max deal and Anthony’s decision to opt in to the final year of his $28m deal – the Thunder have been left with an eye-watering payroll touching $310m.
Thunder GM Sam Presti is hoping to remedy the situation by trading Anthony as an expiring contract, allowing him to be waived and become a free agent.
The Rockets, who are desperate to replace the loss of both Luc Mbah A Moute and Trevor Ariza from their front court, and the Heat are now believed to be the frontrunners in that scenario.
But, according to Jonathan Feigen, the two teams’ pitches to Anthony will differ significantly.
“With the Rockets, he could be used off the bench, which would have to be a significant part of his decision, though he could fit as a starter at small forward with the departure of Mbah a Moute and Trevor Ariza,” Feigen wrote.
“The Heat could likely offer a chance to start at power forward.”
Anthony famously laughed off suggestions he would be relegated to a bench role with the Thunder last season, handing the Heat an obvious advantage in their recruitment pitch.
But in Houston, the former New York Knick would have the chance to play alongside close friend Chris Paul, who teased “we’ll see” when asked whether he expected Anthony to join him.