While the Lakers opened free agency Friday afternoon knowing that main target Anthony Davis will ponder his future with the team until next week, they pulled off another big play by agreeing to deals with free agents Montrezl Harrell and Wesley Matthews, according to people with knowledge of the situation not authorized to speak publicly.
With backup center Dwight Howard spurning the Lakers and agreeing to a deal with the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night, that opened the door for the Lakers to work on a contract with Harrell, the former backup center for the Clippers who was the NBA’s sixth man of the year last season.
With Harrell, Matthews and the trade for point guard Dennis Schroder from Oklahoma City for Danny Green and the draft rights to Jaden McDaniels, the Lakers vastly improved their roster and put themselves in good position to defend their NBA championship.
The next deal for the Lakers to try to conclude is with free-agent guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Both sides are interested in getting it done, according to people with knowledge of the talk. Caldwell-Pope is seeking a raise from the $8.4 million he opted out from receiving next season.
When players are able to sign contracts on Sunday at 9:01 a.m. PST, Harrell can sign the mid-level exception deal he agreed to Friday night for two years and $19 million. According to people, Harrell turned down more money from Charlotte to join the defending NBA champion Lakers.
Harrell was third on the Clippers in scoring last season (18.6 points) and tied for first in rebounding (7.1). His numbers dipped in the playoffs to 10.5 points and 2.9 rebounds.
But Harrell is known for his hustle, grit and determined play, and he gives the Lakers perhaps the best backup big man in the NBA.
The Lakers went to work and agreed with Matthews for him to sign the team’s bi-annual exception, a one-year deal for $3.6 million, according to people not authorized to speak publicly.
Matthews is a versatile defender, able to defend point guards, shooting guards and small forwards.
He averaged 7.4 points last season with the Milwaukee Bucks. He shot 36.4% from three-point range during the regular season and improved to 39% in the playoffs. He’s a 38.1% three-point shooter over his 11-year career.
Though it’s not a guarantee until Davis re-signs with the Lakers, every NBA executive believes he’ll return after joining forces with LeBron James and winning his first championship with the team last month.
According to people familiar with the situation, Davis and agent Rich Paul of Klutch Sports have spoken to Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manger Rob Pelinka, but just to say that Davis wanted to wait until after the Thanksgiving holidays next week before discussing a deal.
Davis wants to see how the Lakers compose the team for a chance at repeating and he wants to figure out the best deal for his future.
He can sign a two-year contract for $68 million with the option to become a free agent after next season, which could align him with James’ free agency.
Davis could sign a three-year deal for $106 million with a player option after the second year, four years for $146.7 million or five years for $189 million.
Howard, who came back to the Lakers and played a pivotal role in the team winning the championship last month, will join Philadelphia on a veteran minimum exception for one year and $2.6 million, his agent Charles Briscoe told The Los Angeles Times on Friday night.
Howard will play for former Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who is the new 76ers coach.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.