LaMarcus Aldridge is slated to meet with at least a half dozen teams this week to kick off free agency, with the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets getting the first crack at him.
The Spurs, Mavericks, Suns, Raptors and Knicks are also extremely interested in Aldridge, but the Lakers, it seems, are setting the bar high. Los Angeles is reportedly sending several important figures within the franchise, including Kobe Bryant, to speak with Aldridge in person. The Rockets will almost assuredly do the same.
“I think in both cases they’re going to present him with the vision,” Associated Press NBA writer Tim Reynolds said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “Okay, this is the team we’re going to put around you. They don’t need to sell him on money. Everyone knows what the money’s pretty much going to be with him. It’s about fit. You got to show the love in this NBA, but okay, here’s the other guys. Look at our teams right now. We know what we have, and here’s the other guys we could get in the next few days to put around you. Would this interest you? Would this work for you? Would you play with this guy? Do you not want to play with this guy? It’s a lot of that stuff, I think, that goes on in these meetings.”
Los Angeles is reportedly making a push to sign both Aldridge and DeAndre Jordan. Those additions would vastly improve a Lakers squad that went 21-61 last season, but would that alone take them from the second-worst team in the West to a championship contender? Are people buying that?
“I think people are buying that in Kobe’s presumed final season, he is not going to let them be bad,” Reynolds said. “I know Kobe has been reaching out to guys and saying, ‘I’m loading up for one run.’ So a lot gets made, especially in the last few days – he did that talk. He’s not the best friend in the room. He doesn’t want to be buddy-buddy with guys – and that’s fine. But Kobe is still a huge voice in this league, and when he reaches out to a player, that player take notices. It’s still a really big deal when Kobe almost humbles himself and says, ‘Dude, I need you with me. I want you with me. Let’s make the Lakers great again.’”
That only works with two franchises. The Lakers are one. The Celtics are the other.
“You can’t say that about the Bulls,” Reynolds said. “You can’t say that about the Heat. You can’t say that about a lot of teams. With the Lakers and Celtics, that carries a lot of panache.”
Bryant, who turns 37 in August, averaged 22.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists in 35 games last season. He has played just 41 games over the last two seasons due to injury.
And yet, his words still mean something. In fact, they mean a lot of something.
“Right now, LeBron’s the best player, of course; the Warriors are the best team,” Reynolds said. “But Kobe’s still the don in the NBA – and when he reaches out to a guy, it resonates.”