LOS ANGELES -- Hours after the Lakers saw the NBA trade deadline pass without making a deal, the franchise might have tipped its hat as to its next move.
Or perhaps more appropriately, tipped its hood.
Free-agent point guard Darren Collison settled into a second-row seat near Lakers owner Jeanie Buss in the third quarter of Los Angeles' 121-111 loss to the Houston Rockets on Thursday night at Staples Center, and while the pair was out in the open in front of nearly 20,000 fans, both arrived at the seats with their hoodies pulled up over their heads.
Darren Collison is sitting with Jeanie Buss at the Lakers game tonight. pic.twitter.com/DqUibRc44u— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) February 7, 2020
The incognito effort didn't last long. Minutes later, Collison was shown on the arena video board, prompting a healthy burst of applause from the home crowd.
The native of nearby Rancho Cucamonga, California, who played his college ball at UCLA, abruptly exited the league in June, citing religious reasons for retiring.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported last month that Collison was mulling a return to the league and would lean toward either of the Los Angeles teams: the Lakers or Clippers.
Asked whether his presence Thursday was a sign of an impending agreement with the Lakers, Collison brushed it off.
"Just watching the game, ain't nothing to it," Collison told ESPN. "Got the best seats in the house."
A source told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne the Lakers were "recruiting" and that Collison plans to discuss over the next week with his family and agent whether to return to the NBA.
LeBron James, whom Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka has likened to a partner when it comes to making roster decisions, was asked what he thought about Collison as a potential addition.
"I don't like talking fantasy basketball, I've never been one to talk fantasy basketball," James said. "We'll see what happens, but I don't really have too much to comment on that."
Collison, 32, averaged 12.5 points and 5.0 assists per game while shooting 39.4% from 3 in 10 seasons, including two seasons under current Lakers coach Frank Vogel from 2010 to 2012 with the Indiana Pacers.
The Lakers have looked to fortify the point guard position all season, sources told ESPN, and made inquiries to the Oklahoma City Thunder regarding Dennis Schroder, the Sacramento Kings about Bogdan Bogdanovic and the Detroit Pistons about Derrick Rose in the days and weeks leading up to the deadline.
ESPN NBA analyst Matt Barnes said on The Jump on Thursday that Collison would have a "50-50" chance of joining the Lakers.
Los Angeles has a full 15-man roster and would need to waive a player to sign Collison.