Lakers, 76ers believe landing Kawhi Leonard is key to signing LeBron James

But as we've noted in every story about him, uncertainties about his health (the quadriceps injury that limited him to nine games this season - not to mention the disagreement between Leonard and the Spurs on whether he was able to play) and his option to become an unrestricted free agent next summer make him an acquisitional risk.

Only three days ago, ESPN reported that "pressure is mounting" for the Lakers to deal for Leonard. Essentially, the Clippers would have to relinquish much of the assets they had received from the Detroit Pistons in their trade of Blake Griffin. His addition was initially believed to be contingent on the Lakers signing other top-flight free agents in order to create a so-called super team to challenge the National Basketball Association champion Golden State Warriors.

It reached boiling point and Leonard asked the Spurs' front off of his desire to be traded. In Tobias Harris, the Clippers have the best current player, but they can't offer the different level of prospects that the Lakers have in guys such as Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma.

The Lakers did not even get to meet with George, a player many believed was destined to wear the Purple and Gold.

With LeBron James signing a four-year deal with the Lakers, Los Angeles may have gotten more appealing for Leonard, who ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said is focused on the west coast.

"I would think the Sixers have the best package to offer, because they have numerous draft picks and young players", said Jon Johnson, KYW's Sixers' beat man and one of the foremost local authorities on the Sixers. Irving had a list of teams he preferred playing for and the Celtics were not one of them, however, he seems very happy with the Celtics as reports state he is "motivated" to sign an extension with the team.

George is in a similar situation as James.

The Spurs are finally getting down to the dirty business, but not with the Lakers. A lot will depend on what James and George decide to do in free agency and if the Spurs decide they're only sending Leonard to the Eastern Conference.

As the gulf between the San Antonio Spurs and Kawhi Leonard grows, the race to land the All-Star forward is pushing forward.

It's understandable that the Spurs would want to shop here, but the C's aren't about to perform major surgery on a roster that is in position to regenerate from within over the next several years as Brown, Tatum and others develop.

After the draft last week, Pelinka declined to say which Lakers might or might not be available in a trade.

  • Steve Townsend