Lakers Bashed for ‘Not Pushing Harder’ to Acquire $36 Million Superstar & NBA Champion

Ben Simmons, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving

Getty Ben Simmons, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving

The Los Angeles Lakers have been bashed for “not pushing harder” to acquire a $36 million superstar at the NBA trade deadline.

In a February 23 column called “Decisions the Lakers Should Already Regret from the Trade Deadline,” Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley wrote that the Lakers should regret not acquiring Kyrie Irving from the Brooklyn Nets.

“The Lakers added a handful of helpful role players around the deadline, but they never nabbed a star. That’s fine theoretically, but they had a shot of adding not merely an eight-time All-Star, but an eight-time All-Star who won a title with LeBron James,” Buckley wrote. “Kyrie Irving is significantly better than anyone L.A. brought back. He’s also unsigned after this season and attached to all kinds of off-court questions, so there would’ve been risk, but there are basketball reasons to wonder if the reward would have been worth it. The fact that the 30-year-old is equally potent with or without the ball would have made him a snug fit alongside James and Anthony Davis.”

The Lakers tried to acquire Irving after the 30-year-old Duke product requested a trade from the Nets. Los Angeles offered Brooklyn a package of Russell Westbrook and two first-round picks in 2027 and 2029 for Irving, according to a February 5 report from Shams Charania of The Athletic. The Nets wound up trading Irving to the Dallas Mavericks since the Lakers didn’t want to part ways with Austin Reaves and Max Christie.

Buckley: The Lakers Might Second-Guess Treating Austin Reaves & Max Christie as Deal-Breakers

Buckley thinks the Lakers might second-guess treating Reaves and Christie as deal-breakers in their attempt to trade for Irving, who is averaging 27.2 points and 5.4 assists this season while shooting 49.0% from the field and 37.9% from beyond the arc.

“The Lakers chased Irving—hard,” Buckley wrote. “L.A. put both its 2027 and 2029 first-round picks on the table but would not deal Austin Reaves or Max Christie without getting Irving to agree to a two-year contract extension, per The Athletic’s Jovan Buha. That’s a sensible stance, but if the Lakers saw Irving as enough of a difference-maker to part with both picks, they might second-guess treating Reaves and Christie as deal-breakers.”

Lakers superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis were privately upset when they heard that Irving landed with the Mavericks, sources told Heavy Sports. Both LeBron and AD have relationships with Uncle Drew. James and Irving won the 2016 championship together on the Cleveland Cavaliers, while Davis and Irving were teammates on the 2014 FIBA World Cup Team.

The Lakers Can Still Get Kyrie Irving

Irving, who is making $36.5 million this season, becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer and many people around the NBA believe the All-Star guard will join the Lakers. Joe Vardon of The Athletic believes Irving will sign with the LakeShow. Vardon covered James and Irving in Cleveland from 2014-15 to 2016-17.

“I believe Irving will be a Laker next season,” Vardon wrote on February 9. “How’s that for a juxtaposition? Irving wants a four- or five-year contract, for the maximum money allowed. If he and the Mavericks reach agreement, it could be a five-year, $273 million deal. But Irving said he didn’t want to engage in negotiations now. ‘The business aspect of this is ruthless,’ he said. The Lakers can’t quite get to the four-year, $210 million max deal he would be eligible for outside of Dallas, but they can pay him north of $30 million per year. The teams with the cap space to pay Irving what he wants, outside of Dallas, are the Pistons, Magic, Pacers, Blazers and Spurs. They are all either rebuilding or, in Portland’s case, have a smaller, ball-dominant guard in Damian Lillard. In other words, getting that max deal outside of the Mavericks may not be possible.

“Enter the Lakers. James has made clear he wants to reunite with Irving. As partners in Cleveland, they won the 2016 NBA Finals, reached two others and were an otherwise dominant, unstoppable duo on offense. They have obviously patched up their differences that led to Irving demanding a trade away from LeBron in Cleveland in the summer of 2017. Irving’s apology helped.”

NBA legend Vince Carter also thinks Irving will be a Laker since James drafted Irving during the 2023 All-Star Game Draft. James put up 25.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game alongside Irving in Cleveland, while Irving averaged 22.1 points and 5.3 assists next to James.

“I look forward to seeing how this plays out,” Carter said on the February 20 episode of ESPN’s Get Up. “More than likely, we probably will see Kyrie in a Laker uniform because of this.”

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