James has agreed to a four-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers for $154 million according his agency, opting out of the final year of his deal with the Cavaliers. And James' decision to come aboard on a long-term deal gives them more leverage in trade negotiations right now.
That's not exactly what the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers want to hear, considering the two teams have hopes of acquiring the superstar before LeBron James makes a decision about his future.
That might change if the Lakers are determined to add their second star now. The Houston Rockets were also thought to be in the mix, although his opting out seems to scuttle their chances as the Rockets would have likely needed a sign-and-trade deal to make a move work. According to ESPN, the Spurs are asking for a huge package in return for Leonard.
Missing out on Leonard this summer would however leave a lot up to four-time MVP James if they intend to compete for a championship in 2018-19.
The Spurs have always been most intrigued with Boston's trade assets, but it remains unclear how rich of a package the Celtics are willing to offer without a full understanding of the long-term implications of Leonard's quadriceps injury, or an assurance that they can be certain of Leonard's willingness to consider a long-term commitment next summer, league sources said.
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Just how desperate is Leonard to get out, though? Johnson said he'll step down as president if the Lakers are unable to get big-name free agents in the next two years.
On the other hand, there's a danger in not striking while the iron is hot.
Would the Spurs take the risk and let Leonard stay on the team? In choosing the Lakers, James has made a bet that the combination of his presence, these young players and significant salary-cap space will be enough to draw elite talent at some point.
James had until 11:59 p.m.to express his intentions to the Cavs and his agent Rich Paul informed the team in the morning, said the people who spoke on condition of anonymity because the sides are not publicly commenting on moves ahead of free agency, which opens on Sunday.