NBA Free Agency 2019: Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Lakers move, Kemba Walker

The Celtics may have found a replacement for Kyrie Irving. The Hornets may be losing the face of their franchise.

Though Kemba Walker has repeatedly stated his preference to remain with the team that drafted him in 2011, The Athletic reports that a sizeable gap exists between the impending free agent and the Hornets. This has created a “stalemate,” which has allowed the Celtics to emerge as the front-runner to sign the All-Star guard when free agency opens Sunday, according to ESPN.

Coming off a career year, in which Walker averaged 25.6 points, 5.9 assists and 4.4 rebounds, the 29-year-old was named to the All-NBA Third Team, making him eligible to receive a super-max extension from Charlotte, which could pay $221 million over five years. Competitors — such as Boston, Dallas and the Knicks — can offer no more than a four-year, $141 million contract.

Despite Walker’s popularity in Charlotte, the franchise could opt to rebuild, appearing hesitant to give so much money to a leading man, who hasn’t been able to lead the team to the playoffs for three consecutive seasons in the weaker conference.

Boston, which appears likely to lose Irving and Al Horford, could remain in contention for the Eastern Conference crown with the addition of Walker, who led UConn to a national championship, and has a stellar locker room reputation.

Walker just finished playing off a team-friendly four-year, $48 million deal. Even if his first choice is to remain in Charlotte, he may not be willing to take another discounted deal.

media_cameraThe Knicks are ready to pounce when Kemba Walker pulls the trigger.

In making a move to the Celtics, Walker could give the Knicks a massive assist.

If Walker flees Charlotte for Boston, there are reports the Celtics could renounce the rights to back-up point guard Terry Rozier, who has long been an apple of Knicks GM Scott Perry’s eye.

In that scenario, Rozier would be an unrestricted free agent and the Knicks would have serious interest.

If Rozier entered free agency as restricted, the Knicks would be much more cautious because Boston can match any offer and their cap money would get tied up as the Celtics decide.

There are some in the organisation who wouldn’t regard Rozier as too far a step down from Kyrie Irving because of his age — 25.

Rozier, who went to Louisville, also knows Kentucky’s Kevin Knox.

“He’s a good player, young, willing to defend and shoots better than people think,” one NBA personnel director said.

“The problem this season with Terry was the locker room from what I’m told Kyrie destroyed.”

In November, The Post reported the Knicks would have interest if Celtics GM Danny Ainge put Rozier on the trading block. Rozier, who led the Celtics to the 2018 Eastern Conference finals, reportedly was unhappy with his new backup role upon Irving’s return.

According to an NBA source, at the 2018 trade deadline, the Knicks “were shopping” for what they called their “own young Terry Rozier.’’

The Knicks landed Emmanuel Mudiay, who will be an unrestricted free agent June 30 and has a small chance of re-signing.

“I definitely can [see it],” Rozier said in a May 14 interview.

“This is a great organisation. Everybody knows about the New York Knicks, the sports market, the city of New York. It’d be great.”

The common thinking was if Irving left as a free agent, the Celtics would re-sign Rozier and match any offer sheet.

However, Walker reportedly has a contract stalemate with Charlotte, which has not offered him the max. Boston is viewed as the front-runner, according to

The Knicks consider Walker a situational max player if, say, Kevin Durant or Kawhi Leonard, want to play with him. Irving, meanwhile, appears set on Brooklyn, according to The Post’s Brian Lewis.


If the Knicks whiff on Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard, they will use their cap space for one-year and two-year deals, pending the player, according to sources.

That is partly to keep cap flexibility for 2021 when Giannis Antetokounmpo becomes a free agent.

Terry Rozier would have to fall in the two-year contract category.

According to the New York Times, the Knicks have mulled a one-year max offer for centre DeMarcus Cousins, but an NBA source said the interest is mild.

According to a source, team president Steve Mills wants players who fit the bill of being able to tutor their young players.

Cousins has some baggage but is also known to some as a good teammate. Like Durant, he’s coming off a torn Achilles.

media_cameraAD has given up $4 million.

The Lakers have stunned former president of basketball operations and franchise legend Magic Johnson with some crafty trade moves that have gifted the team salary cap room to snatch another big fish this free agency.

According to ESPN, the Lakers have shipped off Mo Wagner, Isaac Bonga and Jemerrio Jones to Washington as part of the earlier trade with New Orleans for superstar Anthony Davis.

The move to cut three fringe players has also given the team the $32 million in salary cap space needed to go after one of the star talents up for free agency this off-season, including Kawhi Leonard and Brooklyn’s D’Angelo Russell.

As part of the deal, the Lakers are also gifting the Wizards a second round draft pick in 2022. The Wizards are then passing on a cash payment to the Pelicans.

The trade is not yet official, but is expected to be completed on July 6.

The Lakers were only able to reach the $32 million mark after Davis also waived his reported $4 million signing bonus.

Davis’ commitment to the team also appeared to fill Magic Johnson’s heart with joy.

media_cameraCan you dig it?

A Jimmy Butler-Kawhi Leonard double act at the Clippers could very easily match the Lakers as the biggest show in Los Angeles next season.

With Leonard emerging as the top free agent available on the open market following his Playoffs heroics, reports claim the Clippers and Toronto remain the favourites for his signature.

The Athletic’s Sam Amick reports Leonard is increasingly attracted to the idea of playing for the Clippers alongside Butler and the idea of having such a star shooter play Robin to his Batman.

However, Butler has also reportedly promised to give the Raptors the final sales pitch to him when he intends to sit down with NBA suitors in Los Angeles next week.

Both Leonard and Butler are chasing max deals, meaning the Clippers would have to ship at least one player off to create the required room in their cap.

The 76ers remain confident of keeping Butler this free agency, but are aware they will have to show him the money.

Butler is making no secret of his desire to cash in at this crucial stage in his career.

Originally published as ‘Wow’: NBA free agency stunner revealed

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