Kyrie Irving has dropped plenty of hints this offseason that he would like to play again with LeBron James, sparking rumors that the Los Angeles Lakers could be a fit for the Brooklyn Nets superstar. It is not just the media speculating about Irving landing with the Lakers as there is a growing buzz around the NBA that Los Angeles could make a play to add the star, even if they face long odds to make the move happen.
Irving can opt out of his current $136 million deal to become a free agent this offseason. The Nets guard is slated to have a $36.5 million salary for the 2022-23 season if he declines to test the free agency waters.
During Heavy.com NBA insider Sean Deveney’s conversations with league executives, a Lakers-Nets blockbuster trade proposal has been an intriguing idea that has come up. One Western Conference executive believes the Lakers may be able to flip Russell Westbrook for Irving, adding that L.A. is “more willing” to give the star a long-term contract. The NBA front office person described the proposal as a “pretty incredible swap” while admitting that it would be a “shocker” around The Association.
“It is trading one problem for another problem but if you are the Lakers, you can live with that,” the NBA exec detailed. “The Nets are reluctant to commit to Kyrie for the 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, AD and Kyrie have a relationship, too. Kyrie was recruiting Davis to go to Boston three years ago, so they have their connection. On the Lakers side, of course you do it.”
ALL the latest Los Angeles Lakers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Lakers newsletter here!
Would KD Sign Off on Playing Again With Russ?
By the end of their tenure together in Oklahoma City, Kevin Durant appeared eager to move on from playing with Westbrook. Not only would Durant be losing one of his good friends in Irving, but sharing the court again with Westbrook may be less than ideal for the Nets forward. One NBA source told Deveney that the rumored drama between Durant and Westbrook has been “a little overblown.”
“The Westbrook-Durant stuff was always a little overblown,” an NBA source told Heavy. “Westbrook never held it against Durant as much as people think. They needle each other, but that just happens. The big [thing] 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. They’ve been just as good a team without him as with him. So why give him that money?
“Westbrook, it is one year, then you can probably keep him at a much lesser contract. There are a lot of aspects there that, when you look, it makes sense.”
NBA Exec on Lakers-Nets Trade: ‘It Would Be a Shocker’
The most likely way for the Lakers to land Irving would be for the guard to opt out this offseason. Los Angeles does not have any available cap space to add Irving outright and would need to orchestrate a sign-and-trade with Brooklyn. Even in this scenario, the Nets are unlikely to want to take on Westbrook’s $47 million salary for the 2022-23 season. Los Angeles would likely need to send future first-round picks to Brooklyn as part of the deal.
“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?” the Western Conference executive added. “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 five 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.”
Kyrie on LeBron: ‘We Definitely, I Feel, Would Have Accomplished a Lot More’
During a May 16 interview on the “I AM ATHLETE” podcast, Irving got candid about how his “trials” away from basketball impacted his relationship with James during their time together as Cavs teammates. Both players have since been open about some of the friction they experienced in Cleveland.
“So, we definitely, I feel, would have accomplished a lot more, but again we go back to climbing at that mountain,” Irving said. “And when I was going through some of my trials and learning about who I was, it was a lot harder to reconnect to everybody, again, because I had a lot of questions about the world.
“What was my place in the world? Not what was my place in the basketball realm, you know. I could be the greatest point guard, [this and that], to be skilled and I was focused on that for a majority of my basketball life. I just wanted to be one of the best to play, but when I started having questions about my life outside of this, it started to seep in and I was becoming misunderstood.”