LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard have the power to shake the competitive foundation of the NBA next offseason, so one afternoon workout in a UCLA gym is all that was needed to raise just about every eyebrow in the league.
The three players congregated in Los Angeles on Tuesday with a collection of coaches and acquaintances, eventually taking a curious photo and posting it on Instagram. They definitely knew what kind of reaction it would get.
Before we dive into the significance of these players meeting up in LA, let’s just get this not out of the way: a basketball in Kawhi Leonard’s hands has about the same relative size as a softball in the hand of an average human.
Who was with LeBron, KD and Kawhi in LA?
While some of those faces are certainly recognizable, you could be forgiven for not being able to identify the entire group. Here’s who we’re dealing with, from left to right: Cedi Osman (Cavaliers guard and favorite of James), Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Randy Williams (part of Durant’s inner circle), LeBron James, John Corbacio (Raptors assistant coordinator), Phil Handy (current Raptors and former Cavaliers assistant coach) and Jeremy Castleberry (Raptors player development coach and longtime friend of Leonard).
To simplify, that’s James, a friend of James, Durant, a friend of Durant, Leonard, a friend of Leonard and two additional Raptors staffers, one of whom has also worked with James.
Seeing James welcome Durant and Leonard to Los Angeles–clearly with no ulterior motives–will probably put a smile on Magic Johnson’s face. With James locked into a four-year contract signed this offseason, the Lakers could be in position to chase both Leonard, a free agent next season, and Durant, who could be available if he declines a player option with the Warriors.
Right now, the Lakers basically have James and a promising young core. We don’t know for sure how many wins that will translate to this season, but the good news is that James seems willing to wait a year or two if it means the Lakers can raise a legit title contender.
Free agency next offseason will likely be the Lakers’ big chance to acquire the talent they need to make that leap forward. Sure, Leonard could pull a Paul George and decide he actually does like Toronto and Durant could decide he just loves dominating the NBA with the Warriors. But one afternoon workout is all that was needed to make the possibility of a Lakers superteam seem very real.
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