When they Lakers finally acquired Anthony Davis from the Pelicans, it seemed like all the puzzle pieces were falling into place. They’d cleared enough cap space to potentially add another near-max player, in no small measure thanks to Davis agreeing to forego his $4 million trade kicker.
In their minds, the table was set to land Kawhi Leonard. The mercurial superstar had been clear about his intention to return to his hometown of Los Angeles since last summer, and playing alongside both LeBron James and Anthony Davis obviously had its allure.
Further, Kawhi reportedly had given the Lakers plenty of reasons to be optimistic about their chances. According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, late on July 5, Kawhi and his camp had asked the Lakers to delay finalizing their trade for Davis, as doing so would’ve kept them within the cap space parameters so they could give Kawhi the max.