Before the offseason started, the San Antonio Spurs were rumored to want a meeting with LeBron James. That seemingly never happened.
Before the San Antonio Spurs sent away their superstar, Kawhi Leonard, in a trade to the Toronto Raptors, Marc Stein of The New York Times reported that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich planned to “force his way into the conversation” for LeBron James, a free agent on July 1. That was amidst the Leonard hoopla and before Leonard requested a trade.
Hours into free agency, James went to the Los Angeles Lakers on a four-year deal, erasing speculation on a Spurs connection or a link-up with another contender.
On Tuesday, ESPN’s Rachel Nichols sat down with James to discuss the opening of his new school, as well as the arrival to Los Angeles. Among the topics, LeBron spoke on choosing a team that’s more of a challenge than a win-now squad, which he did take into account, and mentioned the franchises that were considered:
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I definitely thought long and hard about the possibilities of lining up alongside Ben [Simmons] and [Joel] Embiid, or lining up alongside [James] Harden and Chris [Paul]. I just felt like at this point in my career, the ultimate for me — just like when I went to Miami, everyone kind of looks at me joining a superteam, but if people look at it, I think Miami was [47-35] the year before I joined that team and you can look at the Lakers’ record — so I like the challenge of being able to help a team get to some place they haven’t been in quite a while. Obviously, the Lakers haven’t made the playoffs in a few years, but the Lakers organization and the historical franchise matches up there with all the greats — you can look at the Cowboys, and you can look at the Patriots, you can look at Manchester United, the Boston Celtics — these are historical franchises and for me to be a part of that, I think it’s a great moment for not only me but for my family and for the history of basketball in general.
Of course, there’s no mention of San Antonio. Given everything that transpired, along with the lone rumor of Popovich wanting in on the sweepstakes, it never seemed, like, the Spurs ever stood a chance at the four-time NBA champion.
Instead, the Silver and Black will go head-to-head with James’ Lakers throughout the 2018-19 season and beyond in the Western Conference. It’s just the latest playoff threat, as the West’s perception continued to swing towards them as the dominant group of teams, especially with LeBron no longer in the East.
For the Spurs, they sent out Leonard but brought in DeMar DeRozan, to potentially remain a relevant team in the crowded West. No one will be LeBron, but San Antonio has the pieces, including LaMarcus Aldridge, to make some noise in the middle of the pack in the 2018-19 season.