James faces a Friday deadline to opt out of the final year of his existing contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The pressure is on the Los Angeles Lakers to acquire a star player, as LeBron James is reportedly reluctant to join Los Angeles before another star is also on board.
By no means does this indicate Boston is out of the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes. Thus perhaps it should not have been a surprise to see a report Wednesday indicating that James may bolt for Los Angeles and wait to see which other National Basketball Association star joins him there, quickly followed by another report claiming that the four-time MVP was "hesitant" to commit to the Lakers without assurance that the team had already landed some high-profile help.
While there have been rumblings that the Spurs have no interest in trading Leonard to the Lakers or any other Western Conference team, ESPN reports that they have not ruled it out.
Everyone is excited about LeBron James becoming a free agent, but look at this pitch the Los Angeles Lakers are making to Paul George. On top of that, he has one year left on his contract, and is absolutely impossible to trust that he will be coming back after one season.
The challenge to woo the Spurs into shipping Leonard to L.A., however, is daunting. He wants to be traded, but only to the Los Angeles Lakers or Los Angeles Clippers.
Celtics general manager Danny Ainge has taken similar risks before, though nothing identical to giving up a haul for Leonard, who played only nine games this season because of a leg injury but who finished third in MVP voting only one season prior.
The latest ESPN story suggested that former first-round pick Josh Hart could be involved in a trade with the Spurs. That's not how Gregg Popovich rolls. No team talking with the Spurs about Leonard has found them to be in a rush to make a deal.
Another preference by James that could impact free agency, league sources said, is that he wants to make a decision quickly in July free agency.
That help would most likely come in the form of Kawhi Leonard or Paul George - or, ideally, both - but there are some other possibilities, including Chris Paul, James's longtime friend.