When Paul George was forcing his way out of Indiana, all his people talked about was him signing with the Lakers as a free agent. When the time came, he chose to stay in Oklahoma City. Jimmy Butler pushed his way out of Minnesota this season, but the Clippers were reportedly the Los Angeles team on his list, not the Lakers. I have heard from sources, and others have reported as well, that Kawhi Leonard is not really interested in teaming up with LeBron James if Leonard chooses to leave Toronto (not a sure thing by any means).
There's been an assumption that when you combined the Lakers' brand and the draw of Los Angeles with LeBron James, stars would flock to play with him. Not so. The Lakers will eventually get their other star (maybe even this summer), but it's not that simple.
Kevin Durant understands why.
Toxic is a strong word, but like he tried to say it's not so much LeBron as it is he is a crossover star - it's more than just basketball media around him. It's a celebrity culture. And that's just the off-the-court stuff. On the court, everyone next to LeBron - even future Hall of Famers, such as Dwyane Wade for example - become role players on some level.
LeBron is the greatest player of a generation and should have the ball in his hands a lot, it should be his team, and nobody around the league really questions that.
For the stars the Lakers are trying to recruit, the questions are "Where am I in my career? What do I want most? Would playing with LeBron help me get that?"
The answer is not an automatic yes. If Kawhi Leonard wants to prove that he can be the alpha of a team that wins big - and he's not just a key cog in Tim Duncan's culture - then does playing in the shadow of LeBron help him? Same with Durant, if what he wants most is to lead his own team to a title, not to share that spotlight with a Stephen Curry or Russell Westbrook.
Maybe one of those guys - or Anthony Davis, if he turns down a $240 million extension from the Pelicans - feels that playing with LeBron would benefit his career. At some point, some elite player is going to jump at the chance to play with LeBron and win as a Laker. But that is a very, very bright spotlight with a lot of constant drama floating around, and that is not for everyone.
Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka have some work to do.