The past several years of NBA free agency have been nothing but unkind to the Los Angeles Lakers. Not only have they missed out on a slew of marquee talent, there was criticism of the approach and pitches the organization made in key free-agent meetings.
But this upcoming summer represents a renewed hope for the Lakers. They’re now led by the charismatic Magic Johnson, who’s the team’s president of basketball operations, and general manager Rob Pelinka, who forged an array of relationships with players and front office personnel during his time as an agent.
There’s been longstanding speculation the Lakers will be involved for free-agents-to-be LeBron James, Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins, among others. The team has moved toward being in position to sign two players to max contracts during 2018 free agency.
According to Mike Fisher of DallasBasketball.com, one possible duo may be in the form of James and Nerlens Noel, in part because they share the same agent in Rich Paul:
Where is Noel going to have the surgery? In Cleveland, hometown of LeBron James and a headquarters for agent Rich Paul, who reps both LeBron and Noel and yeah, it’s kind of an open secret now that the fellas are plotting ways to end up together, maybe next July 1 via free agency to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Lakers’ connections to James go back at least multiple years, and he may have inadvertently fueled speculation by recently purchasing a second mansion in the Los Angeles area.
The Lakers were said to have interest in trading for Noel this past January while he was still a member of the Philadelphia 76ers. He was dealt one month later to Mavericks.
Noel re-signed with Dallas as a restricted free agent during the offseason, agreeing to a modest one-yer, $4.1 million contract by way of the qualifying offer. The gamble backfired in some sense, as Noel underwent surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb.
Noel is expected to miss at least four weeks. He’s averaging four points and 4.1 rebounds in 18 games (six starts) this season.
The 23-year-old and James are on track to become unrestricted free agents in the summer.
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