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Report: The Spurs’ leverage has increased because the Lakers need to deal for Kawhi Leonard soon

The Spurs may be in the driver’s seat now that time is running out for L.A.’s chances to pair LeBron James with Kawhi Leonard.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James has a decision to make, and he has until Friday to make it. First of all, if he opts out of his current contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers he must do so tomorrow. In the event that James does opt out and engage in free agency, the Los Angeles Lakers have cleared enough cap space to make a push for him.

According to an ESPN story today from Woj, Windy, and Ramona, they have sources that indicate that James is:

hesitant to be the first superstar to decide on the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency, pressure is mounting for the Lakers front office to execute a trade with the San Antonio Spurs to acquire disgruntled All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard

At the same time Magic Johnson, President of Basketball Operations for the Lakers, has attempted to lure Kawhi Leonard from San Antonio. It is widely believed Leonard wants to play for the Lakers and that having him join will encourage LeBron to head out to Hollywood.

As reported by ESPN, the pressure is on the Lakers to make a deal for Leonard before James makes a decision.

With that in mind, if the Spurs decide to deal Kawhi, their leverage seems to be as high as it’s been since Leonard’s group reportedly let his trade request leak. According to Ramona Shelburne, when the Lakers did reach out, the Spurs “shut the door.” Without Kawhi or Paul George (who last summer pledged allegiance to the Lakers and is now waffling with regard to leaving Oklahoma City), James may be less likely to move.

Which has many deducing that James wants to play with Kawhi — or at least whichever superstar(s) are interested in joining him on the Lakers.

Meanwhile, R. C. Buford has expressed publicly that the Spurs intend to maintain Leonard. This would imply PATFO is working to mend fences and perhaps offer Leonard the super max once they’re able to. But if Kawhi is adamant about leaving San Antonio, then the:

. . . price for Leonard would be substantial. The Lakers could have to surrender a combination of former first-round picks -- from Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart -- and future first-round picks and perhaps restricted free agent Julius Randle in a sign-and-trade agreement.

Not the best deal in the world, but not bad for the position the team found itself in 12 days ago.