As the new year begins, the Lakers are preparing for the near and not-so-near future.
They offered Anthony Davis the maximum contract they could Tuesday, a four-year deal worth $146 million — a formality on the first day they could do it. Davis declined the offer, as expected. The Lakers can offer him a five-year deal worth more than $200 million in July after he officially becomes a free agent.
The 26-year-old superstar’s agent, Rich Paul, has been clear for months that Davis’ plan is to officially enter the market, though he is widely expected to re-sign with the Lakers.
The Lakers also are preparing for the trade deadline, which is Feb. 6 at noon PST, and monitoring the buyout market.
Activity often ramps up league-wide in advance of the trade deadline, but the Lakers are still in a fact-finding mode. A person familiar with the team’s plans said the Lakers, who have the best record in the Western Conference, don’t plan to make any dramatic moves, but would be interested in improving the “fringes” of their team if the right deal arises.
To that end, the Lakers are willing to listen to offers involving any of their players except LeBron James and Davis, the person said.
The trade deadline last year was a tumultuous time for the Lakers. Davis requested a trade from New Orleans in January, and the Lakers set to work trying to acquire him. Then-Pelicans general manager Dell Demps was reluctant to engage with the Lakers and spoke only with president of basketball operations Magic Johnson. The Lakers’ offers became public and that damaged chemistry within their locker room. At a game in Indiana, players heard chants of “LeBron’s going to trade you.”
No trade materialized last season, but after a regime change in New Orleans, the Lakers got Davis for the price of three players they had selected in the first round, three first-round draft picks and the right to swap a fourth.
This year the Lakers would like to conduct their business more quietly, though reports already have surfaced that teams are calling about Kyle Kuzma. According to a person familiar with the conversation, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka initiated a call with Sacramento to gauge the Kings’ interest in Kuzma.
Another procedural milestone passed for the Lakers on Tuesday as Dwight Howard’s one-year contract became guaranteed by the end of the day.
Howard agreed to a nonguaranteed deal to prove to the Lakers he was serious about rehabilitating his image and accepting a lesser role.
“Off to a great start,” coach Frank Vogel said. “I felt like we’ve always had a connection from conversations we’ve had where we were both opponents to each other, and I felt like it was going to be a good fit. And when we met with him this summer, that I could be an influential coach for him, and that he could bring his skill set and if he accepted the right role, could really help us. All of that has played out in the way that I anticipated so far.”
Staff writer Broderick Turner contributed to this report.