Lakers Competing With Rival as Top Contenders to Land 7-Time All-Star: Report

Lakers exec Rob Pelinka

Getty Lakers exec Rob Pelinka

The Los Angeles Lakers have a chance to land Brooklyn Nets superstar Kyrie Irving this offseason, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania. The NBA insider labeled the Lakers, Clippers and Knicks as potential landing spots for Irving after conversations with the Nets about his future “have gone stagnant.”

“But one of the most anticipated free-agency situations involves Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving, who has a June 29 deadline on his $36.9 million player option for the 2022-23 season,” Charania wrote on June 20, 2022. “However, multiple sources tell The Athletic that conversations about Irving’s future have gone stagnant between him and the Nets. An impasse currently exists among the parties that clears the way for the seven-time All-Star to consider the open marketplace, those sources said.”

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The Lakers’ Preferred Option Is for Kyrie to Opt Into His Deal Then Push for Trade

First Things First | Broussard "explains" why LeBron' Lakers are the best fit for Kyrie IrvingFirst Things First | Chris Broussard "explains" why LeBron' Lakers are the best fit for Kyrie Irving2022-06-20T13:32:58Z

The Lakers will have competition if they choose to get into the Kyrie sweepstakes this summer. For the Lakers, an ideal situation would be for Irving to opt-in to the final season of his four-year, $136 million deal with his $36.5 million salary, then Los Angeles could attempt to orchestrate a trade with Brooklyn.

“The Lakers, Knicks and Clippers are expected to be among the interested suitors if Irving heads elsewhere, multiple sources tell The Athletic,” Charania added. “For the Lakers, the likely path to acquire Irving would be him opting in to facilitate a trade, because the Lakers cannot realistically clear cap space to sign him themselves, and a sign-and-trade would trigger the hard cap, thus making acquiring Irving significantly more difficult.

“If Irving would opt in, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka would have to satisfy the collective bargaining agreement’s salary-matching rules, meaning if Irving’s $36.6 million was the only incoming salary, the Lakers could send anywhere from $29.3 million to $45.8 million to the Nets and/or a third team in a legal transaction.”

While this would be the most preferable option for the Lakers, Irving will likely push for a long-term deal by opting out of his current contract. The Lakers could still pull off a sign-and-trade for Irving, but the deal would hard cap Los Angeles making free agency much more challenging.

Kyrie on Playing With LeBron: ‘I Was Learning on the Fly’

Whatever tension existed between Irving and LeBron James from their time together as Cavaliers teammates appears to have dissipated. Irving conducted an early offseason media tour and went out of his way to praise James. During a May 16 interview on the “I AM ATHLETE” podcast, Irving joked that he would be playing with the Lakers if he had not requested a trade from the Cavaliers in 2017.

“I’d probably be in L.A. right now,” Irving explained. “I’d probably be traveling with his [James’] backpack. Nah, I’m joking, man. That was a time in my career that I look back on, and we’ve had conversations, me and Bron, plenty of conversations. …That’s my dog, shout out to Bron, man.

“…So, I was learning on the fly. When he first came back [to the Cavs] I was 22, 23, so I was just a young kid trying to help Cleveland patch up their relationship with him. I got drafted the year after [LeBron signed with the Heat], so when I came in, it was like, ‘Are you going to be better than LeBron? Are you?’ That was my first question when I got into Cleveland. So, it was mixed emotions the whole time that we were competitors and then when he came back as my teammate, when he came back to Cleveland, that’s his home.

“…I definitely feel like me learning from him helped accelerate my understanding of the game that we’re in, the business that we’re in. Because I was watching him deal with it in front of the camera, off the camera. Being LeBron James, that comes with its own responsibility.”

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