Superstar Drama Reignites Talk of Lakers Blockbuster Trade for $136 Million Guard

Kyrie Irving (left) and LeBron James

Getty Kyrie Irving (left) and LeBron James

It has been a pretty fascinating 40 days since the opening of NBA free agency at the end of June, with the Lakers one of the central players in the drama—even as nothing has actually happened. But for a while, it appeared that the defection of Kyrie Irving from Brooklyn to reunite with LeBron James in Los Angeles was all but inevitable, with the Lakers sending Russell Westbrook and some draft compensation to the Nets.

That’s changed, of course. Irving, a seven-time All-Star who averaged 27.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists last year, has since professed his happiness with the Nets and no longer wants out. He opted into the final year of the $136 million contract he originally signed with Brooklyn in 2019, and is content in playing out that year, according to a report that first appeared in the New York Post.

But with the renewed hostilities between the Nets and star Kevin Durant—whose trade demand on June 30 ignited the free-agent period—an Irving deal could land back on the table. And the Lakers would be among the frontrunners.

“If they’re resigned to losing KD,” one Eastern Conference executive told Heavy Sports, “I don’t see why they would keep Kyrie in place, too. You’d really have to get younger. They would have to look around, and maybe revisit the Lakers stuff. The Heat, too, but the Lakers had a framework on a deal.”

Picks, Seth Curry Could Be Sticking Points

That is where the Lakers would come in. The Nets would have to be willing to take back Westbrook’s $47 million contract, but would welcome the addition of 21-year-old Lakers guard Talen Horton-Tucker as part of the deal, and one of the Lakers’ two available draft picks (2027 or 2029).

Two young assets for Irving would be a plus for Brooklyn.

The Nets would have to send back another player to the Lakers, and that was a sticking point in the previous conversations the two teams had about an Irving swap. The Nets want the Lakers to take the two years and $39 million on Joe Harris’ contract, while the Lakers prefer the one year and $8.5 million owed to Seth Curry. In the end, it’s a more important deal to the Lakers than the Nets, so L.A. could be the side that caves.

Durant, Nets Relationship Takes a Bad Turn

Still, the deterioration of the relationship between Durant and the Brooklyn organization is more likely to reduce the chances that he gets traded before the season, rather than increase them. Durant first made his trade demand from Brooklyn on June 30, the start of free agency, but the Nets have not gotten anything like the kind of offer they want for the former MVP.

Last week, Heavy Sports’ Steve Bulpett reported that Durant and Nets owner Joe Tsai would meet face-to-face to attempt to find a way forward, and the meeting apparently went poorly, with Durant saying the only way he’d come back to the Nets is if the team got rid of coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks.

Tsai, though, later tweeted his support of both team employees, writing, “Our front office and coaching staff have my support. We will make decisions in the best interest of the Brooklyn Nets.”

The deeper the wedge between Durant and the team, the more that other teams will attempt to low-ball the Nets in their offers for Durant. The drama around Durant, too, has made teams increasingly wary of making a deal for him—few GMs and coaches will advocate for making a trade for a player who wanted his last GM and coach fired.

One front-office executive described the mood of other teams when it comes to Durant’s approach this summer. “Livid,” he told Bulpett. “He and Kyrie (Irving) basically told Sean they were coming (as free agents in 2019), and Sean did pretty much everything they wanted after that.”

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