Shocker Nets-Lakers Blockbuster Trade Proposal ‘Makes Sense’: NBA Sources

Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook

Getty Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving warm up during the NBA All-Star Game 2018

News broke this week of a secret meetup at the NBA Draft Combine between Los Angeles Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka and Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks. Both teams are coming off of disappointing seasons and have roster moves that need to be made.

“Nets GM Sean Marks and Lakers exec Rob Pelinka had a meeting at the Marriot Marquis this week at the NBA Combine,” Adam Zagoria of The New York Times tweeted on May 21. “Unclear what they discussed. Potential trade? Dinner plans? Comparing superstar headaches?”

The Marks-Pelinka meeting led to speculation — wild though it may be — the general managers were about a major trade, perhaps one that would send Kyrie Irving to Los Angeles for Russell Westbrook.

One NBA source told Heavy’s Sean Deveney that such a deal appears feasible.

“There are a lot of aspects there that, when you look, it makes sense,” the source said.

Source: ‘Why Give Him That Money?’

The source told Deveney that the Nets aren’t any better with Irving, who missed the first 10 weeks of the 2021-22 season because of his status as an unvaccinated player. Even once he returned in January, he was prohibited from playing at Barclays Center in Brooklyn because of New York City’s vaccination mandate. In the end, the Nets were swept out of the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs by the Boston Celtics.

“They’ve been just as good a team without [Irving] as with him,” the source said. “So why give him that money? Westbrook, it is one year, then you can probably keep him at a much lesser contract.”

Both Irving, 30, and Westbrook, 33, have player options this offseason, with Irving’s worth $36.5 million and Westbrook’s worth $47 million. As of a month ago, Westbrook had claimed he didn’t know whether he would pick up the option, according to an April 19 SB Nation story.

The Nets meanwhile appear noncommittal about signing Irving to a long-term extension.

“The big for the Nets is the financial stuff. You have to give Kyrie around $40 million per year for four or five years, and that locks you into him,” the source told Deveney.

Another source, a Western Conference executive, also told Deveney that a deal would be possible, noting that sending Irving to Los Angeles would reunite him with LeBron James, with whom he won an NBA title in Cleveland.

“It is trading one problem for another problem, but if you are the Lakers, you can live with that,” the Western Conference executive said. “The Nets are reluctant to commit to Kyrie for a long term because, obviously, they do not know how much he’s gonna play. But the Lakers, they’re more willing. Kyrie and LeBron have their own relationship. They would be happy to get back together. And remember, [Anthony Davis] and Kyrie have a relationship, too. Kyrie was recruiting Davis to go to Boston three years ago, so they have their connection.”

The first source said that from a Lakers perspective, such a deal would make sense.

“On the Lakers side, of course you do it,” the source said. “The question is: You’re the Nets, put aside whatever the relationship between KD and Russ is now, how do they fit on the floor? Get Ben Simmons back and healthy; how do those pieces fit? You have Seth Curry and hopefully Joe Harris to stretch the floor. You will need a 5 to stretch the floor. You need shooting. But it would be a pretty incredible swap, it would be a shocker. Kyrie for Russell, that would be really, really interesting.”

A Westbrook-Durant Reunion?

Given Westbrook’s unwieldy contract and diminished performance last year, when he was second in the league in turnovers, a trade sending Westbrook anywhere appears impossible at the moment, but to send him to Brooklyn to team up again with Kevin Durant would certainly be a shocker. Westbrook and Durant played together for three years in Oklahoma City, leading the Thunder to the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat.

“The Westbrook-Durant stuff was always a little overblown. Westbrook never held it against Durant as much as people think. They needle each other, but that just happens,”  said the first NBA source.

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