Lakers start free agents calls

Updated: July 1, 2014, 12:52 PM ET
By Dave McMenamin and Ramona Shelburne | ESPN.com

The Los Angeles Lakers will meet with free-agent forward Carmelo Anthony Thursday in Los Angeles, sources told ESPN.

Anthony and his representatives were one of the Lakers' first calls Monday night as free agency officially opened at 9:01 p.m. PT. They also placed a call to the agent for Miami forward LeBron James and their own free-agent center Pau Gasol within the first hour of the negotiating period.

The Lakers' top priority is trying to convince both James and Anthony to leave their respective teams and join together in L.A.

ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst reported Monday James is not scheduling any pitch meetings with teams; he will let agent Rich Paul handle the opening stages of talks. James will seek a full max-level extension wherever he signs, according to Windhorst, and the Lakers are one of just seven teams with the requisite cap space to do so, along with the Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz, Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic.

If James and Anthony represented the Lakers' Plan A, then either Gasol or Chris Bosh -- perhaps paired with one of the two aforementioned gems of the 2003 draft class -- were the Plan B. The Lakers, Mavericks, Chicago Bulls and Golden State Warriors were among the teams who reached out to Gasol on Monday night, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. The market for the 7-foot Spaniard is likely to develop after Anthony and James make their decision, as many of the teams interested in Gasol are also pursuing the two superstar forwards.

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said last week that he stayed in constant contact with Gasol throughout the season and in the last several months of the offseason leading up to this point to see how much the 7-footer would want to return and under what circumstances. ESPN reported on Sunday that Gasol would have an interest in re-signing with the team, despite being the subject of trade rumors for the past three seasons.

Unlike last summer, when the Lakers kicked off free agency with Kupchak greeting Dwight Howard at a Beverly Hills hotel, Gasol did not have a face-to-face meeting with the team he spent the last 7½ seasons with, nor with representatives for any other suitors. Gasol simply took calls from interested teams Monday night from an office in Los Angeles.

ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard reported the Lakers' interest in Bosh, but it is believed that the Lakers' ties to Bosh, much like their designs on winning over James, will have to lay dormant until Miami's Big Three -- along with Dwyane Wade -- mutually decide what their fate will be with the Heat.

Kupchak also contacted free-agent forwards Luol Deng, Trevor Ariza and point guard Kyle Lowry on Monday night, according to sources.

Ariza, coming off a season in which he scored 14.4 points on a career-best 40.7 percent mark from 3, drew interest from the Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix, Miami, Dallas, Utah, Cleveland Cavaliers and Washington Wizards, the team he played for last season.

Sources indicated that the Lakers also contacted representatives for Houston's Chandler Parsons, Utah's Gordon Hayward and Sacramento's Isaiah Thomas -- all of whom are restricted free agents.

Parsons is also being pursued by Dallas, the Chicago Bulls and Phoenix, according to ESPN's Jeff Goodman.

And as for that long list of players who suffered through the Lakers' 27-55 season and are now hitting free agency, the team reached out to about half of them on Monday, including representatives for Nick Young, Jodie Meeks, Jordan Hill and Kent Bazemore.

Young, who just last week opted out of his $1.2 million deal with the Lakers for next season, was also contacted by "several other teams registering interest," his agent, Mark Bartelstein, told ESPN.com.

"We're going to look at everything," said Bartelstein. "Have an open mind. See what happens here and in the future hours, days and weeks."

Meeks was also courted by several unnamed teams, according to a league source. Bazemore's agent also fielded calls from Dallas, Atlanta and Boston, which was followed by a personal call from Celtics coach Brad Stevens to Bazemore.

Despite allowing Bazemore to become an unrestricted free agent by not tendering him a $1.1 million qualifying offer over the weekend, the "Lakers are on board" with trying to bring Bazemore back for next season, according to a league source.

As for what the Lakers' message was when they made all these connections on Monday? Kupchak pulled back the curtain a bit Monday morning during an appearance on "ESPNLA Now" on ESPNLA 710.

"We feel that whatever we share with prospective free agents will come from the heart," Kupchak told co-hosts Mark Willard and Mychal Thompson. "We don't have to gloss anything over. And that's not to say that we live in the past and talk about this is what we've accomplished and that's why you should be here. A lot of that kind of discussion doesn't really get you anywhere with players that are looking forward.

"So we'll concentrate on what our goals are, what our resources here are with the Lakers, the city of Los Angeles and most importantly, how we plan to win going forward."

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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