This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but Spurs free agent to-be DeMar DeRozan is interested in joining his hometown Los Angeles Lakers this offseason, even at a possible discount, according to Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times.
DeRozan, who starred at Compton High and USC, has interest in returning home to play for the Lakers, even if it is for less than the $27.7 million he earned last season in San Antonio, according to people not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
It would seem the interest is mutual, as it has already been reported that the Lakers are interested in him. It would be a good fit for both sides, as DeRozan is still searching for his first ring, and his presence would provide the Lakers with another piece who can score on his own, create for others, and relieve the aging LeBron James of some of his ball-handling duties. There’s also reportedly mutual interest between the Lakers and Kyle Lowry, so a possible reunion with his old Raptors teammate and best friend is surely an enticing possibility for DeRozan.
Of course, there’s a catch to everything. The Lakers are expected to enter free agency at just $12 million under the luxury tax line, and that’s with only 8 players signed (assuming Montrezl Harrell opts in to his $9.7 million contract for next season). Regardless of anything, they will be paying the luxury tax when all is said and done, so unless DeRozan is willing to take a mega discount and sign the veteran’s minimum or something along the lines of the mid-level exception, the only way they’ll be able to afford him is via a sign-and-trade, whether it’s with the Spurs or someone else.
Without a third party getting involved, the Spurs would be getting role players, not a star, back in return for DeRozan, and the Lakers do not have an intriguing draft pick to offer, but the Spurs aren’t likely to land a star for DeRozan regardless. Most mock trades between the the Spurs and Lakers center around forward Kyle Kuzma, whom Gregg Popovich has always been high on and has become expendable to the Lakers since 2018, when they reportedly refused to include him in any potential deals for Kawhi Leonard.
The Spurs still have until August 1 to work out a contract extension with DeRozan before he becomes an unrestricted free agent, in which they can add a maximum of fours years, $149.1 million to his contract, with a starting salary of $33.3 million for the 2021-22 season. While neither side has ever ruled out a reunion, it’s seeming more and more likely that DeRozan will not be a Spur when the new season tips off in October.