The same day a report surfaced that Jim Buss had told "people" in Los Angeles that the Lakers would get Kevin Durant... and then Russell Westbrook, ESPN's Chris Broussard reports the Lakers remain confident they'll get a meeting with Durant once the NBA's free agency period opens Thursday night. The Lakers had reportedly been missing from the Thunder star's short list of accepted suitors. From ESPN:
"I can't imagine Durant wouldn't talk to us," the source said. "That would shock me." Part of the Lakers' pitch to Kevin Durant will be the ability to team with another top-tier free agent, a source said.
The Lakers believe they have a pitch that will appeal to Durant and other free agents, said the source with knowledge of the team's thinking. With the ability to clear more than $60 million in cap space, they will attempt to sell stars on the potential of joining the Lakers with another top-tier free agent, the source said.
"We want to pitch guys on combinations, as opposed to just one guy," the source said. "We'll say to a guy, 'Who do you want to play with? We've got the room to go get him.'"
Couple of thoughts here:
- For starters, this presupposes that the Lakers are the only team with the cap room to pull off such a maneuver. The Knicks, Celtics and Rockets are all capable of adding multiple max players on a whim, and all have received more interest from Durant.
- Even adding a second star wouldn't change the Lakers' core situation which is built around young players who have no clue how to win in this league yet. Even if they swapped out three-fifths of their young core (say, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson), they'd still have D'Angelo Russell as their starting point guard, and they'd still have to fill in the gaps with veterans. It's not impossible, but it's certainly tricky.
- This is peak "Lakers Exceptionalism," the belief that just by virtue of being The Lakers, L.A. is capable of, and even entitled to, certain benefits beyond the rest of the league. It's not that Durant will absolutely not meet with the team. In fact it's likely he will. Taking a meeting costs Durant nothing. It's the fact that a source connected with a team which has won 38 games across the last two seasons combined would be "shocked" if they didn't get a meeting.
- If Durant decides to go to L.A., it'll be a personal decision brought about because of interest in the L.A. market, an interest in honoring Kobe Bryant's legacy, or any of the other perks that come with being a Lakers star. It will also fly directly in the face of what Durant has said will be his main consideration: basketball.
- It's also stunning that a team that was once considered a constant threat to sign stars like LeBron James now has to try and aggressively pursue just getting a meeting with guys like Durant.
Durant is reportedly set to meet with the Thunder, Warriors, Celtics, Heat and Spurs once free agency begins, with Atlanta and New York on the outside hoping to get a meeting but have been neither confirmed nor denied yet. The Wizards also reportedly will not be granted a meeting.
USA Today reported earlier Tuesday that there had been no movement from Durant's camp about granting the Lakers a meeting.