According to ESPNLA.com’s Ramona Shelburne and ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst, the Lakers are focusing on rebuilding around the two biggest free agents for 2014 – Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony.
In accordance with ESPN.com’s Marc Stein’s prediction of a $62.1 million salary cap for the 2014-15 season, the Lakers will theoretically have about $51.5 million in cap space next summer.
Although the reality of pairing James and Anthony together is still a long-shot at this point, the Lakers have made it clear that they plan to try.
The Lakers have positioned themselves into making a realistic run at not just one superstar next summer, but possibly two in the same off-season.
By refusing to commit to any contracts past this upcoming season, the Lakers have maintained maximum flexibility to cash-in on the 2014 free agency frenzy.
A league source with knowledge of the situation told ESPN:
“It’s all wishful thinking at this point,” a league source said. “Teams are doing more wishing than LeBron is wanting right now.
“It’s not about where LeBron wants to go [to win]. He already has two rings. If LeBron moved to Reno, teams would come to him.”
James, who has an opt-out clause for next season, has not made it clear as to whether he plans to exercise his opt-out or not.
It seems that James has learned from his previous “decision” by refusing to discuss his future plans until the time comes.
In addition to James, Anthony also has an early termination option in his contract after this next season.
One source close to Anthony’s situation told ESPN:
“It would make sense for him to exercise the early termination option on his contract after next season to become a free agent and secure either a four- or five-year extension.”
Although the Lakers have tons of cap space next season, there is nothing concrete to sell potential free agents on.
As it currently stands, the Lakers do not even have any current marquee players, like they would have had had Dwight Howard re-signed this off-season.
Not even Kobe Bryant, who is in the final year of his contract, is guaranteed to be in the fold after next year.
Bryant has said recently that he plans to play another two or three more seasons, but would need to take a major pay-cut for the Lakers to maintain enough room to purse two max-level free agents.
Bryant, however, recently told ESPNLA.com’s Dave McMenamin that he intends to be involved in the Lakers’ recruiting efforts for 2014:
“It’s an open conversation, via text and also meeting in person and just picking up the phone and calling,” Bryant said of his involvement. “[The Lakers] have kept me in the loop pretty well.”
With Bryant at the head of the recruiting process, it could bode well for the Lakers’ pursuit of Anthony, in particular.
Bryant and Anthony developed a close relationship during their time together in the recent Summer Olympics, and have remained friends since.
The two superstars have also discussed potentially playing together in the past.
It should be interesting to see if the Lakers can in fact lure two max-level free agents next summer, in addition to re-signing Bryant at an affordable price.
The Lakers remain poised to do so, however, with Steve Nash ($9.7 million) and Robert Sacre ($915,243) the only players on the books for 2014-15.
According to the ESPNLA.com’s report, the new collective bargaining agreement would allow the Lakers to waive the final year of Nash’s contract, so they could potentially “stretch” his $9.7 million out over three years.
This would mean that only $3.2 million would count against the 2014-15 salary cap, giving the Lakers even more cap flexibility.
As a result of this cap rule, the Lakers could then grant Bryant’s wish and extend his contract for another few seasons at between $10-15 million per season.
Even with Bryant making about $10-15 million per season, the Lakers would still theoretically have enough room to pursue two max-level players.
In addition to Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, the 2014 free agency class potentially includes Dwyane Wade, Amar’e Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, Luol Deng, Danny Granger, Andrew Bogut, Dirk Nowitzki, and current Lakers Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, among others.