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LeBron recruited DeMar DeRozan to Lakers before Russell Westbrook trade

lebron james demar derozan russell westbrook lakers

DeMar DeRozan didn’t exactly need to be sold on playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, his hometown team. That said, private recruiting efforts from LeBron James can’t hurt.

According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo, James and DeRozan were “in talks” about teaming up in Los Angeles. LeBron and Anthony Davis, who have substantial say in personnel moves, wined-and-dined a different L.A. native, Russell Westbrook, in recent days, per Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times.

Earlier this week, DeRozan indicated that he would take a pay-cut to join a contender, and the Compton-native has repeatedly expressed interest in playing for the Lakers, who nearly signed him and traded for him in the past.

However, after the Westbrook blockbuster (which can’t be finalized until Aug. 6), DeRozan joining the Lakers becomes eminently less likely. He could take the Lakers’ full non-taxpayer mid-level exception ($10ish million), but that would trigger a hard cap and make it borderline impossible for the Lakers to fill out the roster. Talen Horton-Tucker and Alex Caruso would be gone.

A more realistic scenario for acquiring DeRozan — as we speculated earlier in the week, and Haynes notes in his report — was a sign-and-trade involving the San Antonio Spurs, who were reportedly down with Kyle Kuzma. DeRozan could have inked a fresh, team-friendly contract close to Kuzma’s total ($13M) and the Spurs would have recouped value for the veteran UFA. Of course, that’s out the window with Kuzma headed to the Washington Wizards.

Instead, DeRozan — who made $27.7 million in 2020-21 — would have to play for the taxpayer portion of the MLE ($5.9 million) to don purple-and-gold. That’s asking a lot, no matter how persuasive LeBron is over a few Lobos rocks.

Money aside, DeRozan makes considerably less sense as a basketball fit post-Russ acquisition. The Lakers want to improve their three-point shooting, and DeRozan and Westbrook are literally the two worst deep-shooting starting guards in basketball.