Hours before free agency officially started, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak appeared on several talk shows to send the message that the Lakers would be active in their pursuit of the top free agents.
On Monday morning's Dan Patrick Show, Kupchak was asked what he would be doing at 9:01pm Pacific Time, the official start time of NBA free agency. “In our business, the phones are really moving. You make your list. We have a lot of cap room, so we have a lot of opportunities," Kupchak said.
The Lakers’ GM was not exaggerating.
Before midnight in Los Angeles, the Lakers had already been in contact with several free agents. ESPN Los Angeles’ Ramona Shelboure reported that the Lakers reached out to Rich Paul, the agent of LeBron James. Shelboure also reported that the Lakers “registered interest” in Carmelo Anthony and will meet with the New York Knicks’ free agent on Thursday.
From there, the list grew and grew. Trevor Ariza, Nick Young, Kent Bazemore were mentioned, along with longtime Laker Pau Gasol.
In a slightly unexpected move, Sporting News’ Sean Deveney said the Lakers also reached out to Jordan Hill. Hill originally came to LA in at trade involving Derek Fisher, but the traditional power forward found himself struggling to see time on the court with Mike D’Antoni preferring a power forward that could stretch the floor and shoot from the outside. With D’Antoni gone, Hill's return is no longer out of the question.
Continuing in the theme of recent Lakers, the Los Angeles Daily News’ Mark Medina reported that the Lakers also reached out to Jodie Meeks. Meeks consistently improved during his two seasons in Los Angeles, and the Lakers were unapologetically happy with his work rate. By the end of the 2013-14 season, one could easily argue that Meeks had been the Lakers’ best player during the tumultuous season.
With NBA free agency in full swing and the Lakers possessing significant spending power, the phone calls and rumors should flow like water down the LA river during an El Nino year. However, most experienced analysts will explain that until James and Anthony decide on a team, contracts will remain in the filing cabinet.
Teams like the Lakers would prefer to hold onto their financial flexibility and hope for a miracle rather than spend their finite allowance on lesser players and potentially turn away the likes of James or Anthony due to financial constraints. Ultimately, the Lakers should be linked with half the league between the start of free agency and when James and Anthony eventually make their respective decisions.
However, once those two superstars decide on a team--whether it is the Lakers or not--expect a frenzy of signings to fill a gaping roster.