The Lakers and Mavericks are in vastly different positions right now. The former is cutting an interesting path from the Western Conference No. 7 seed through the NBA playoffs. The latter is home trying to figure out what went wrong and what comes next.
And their futures may be intertwined.
The Lakers certainly aren’t your average No. 7 — not when you have one of the greatest to ever play this game and another who, while availability-challenged, is generally an All-Star lock. With LeBron James scoring victories over Dillon Brooks and age, and Anthony Davis living up to his talent, L.A. is in good postseason position. It can either put Memphis in a 3-1 headlock Monday night or, at worst, lose and fall into a best-of-three against the inexperienced Grizzlies.
There is more basketball for the Lakers to play, but teams around the league — particularly those whose offseasons have already begun — are trying to figure out the future … for themselves and for the LeBrons, as well.
“Things are breaking right for them right now,” said one opposing executive. “Memphis is pretty shaky as a second seed, and they could really use Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke (out with injuries). And if L.A. can finish this off, everyone else out West has questions.
“But I think they know they have to strike when they can, because who knows what happens after this?”
The Kyrie Irving Question
The Lakers were 18-8 after the trade deadline, adding Rui Hachimura, D’Angelo Russell and others in the lead-up and getting into the play-in. Here’s what one rival executive told Heavy Sports:
The interesting thing about that is they really did feel they made some progress with the trades. But how much of this do they really think will be solid going forward? I think we all know what they’re going to TRY to do this summer, but it’ll be tough.
The fly in that ointment is what does Kyrie (Irving) decide to do? And how do the Lakers get Kyrie money and get him there to see if they can’t go with the superteam troika? How do they pay for that?
They’ve got to look at this as, OK, how many years does LeBron have and how many years can they actually keep Anthony Davis engaged? Because AD ain’t got any great love for this game. So their window is a short one. Do they go after the superteam piece and figure out how to bring Kyrie in there? You know damn well Kyrie is not coming in for a discount.
So do you stay the course and stick with D-Lo (Russell) and Rui and all of that group and say, ‘OK, let’s play with the two stars and try and have some reasonable depth’? I predict that they’ll try to figure out a way to pay Kyrie Irving and bring him in.
Kyrie Was a Flop in Dallas
Irving is clearly a wild card in all this. An unrestricted free agent this summer, he asked out of Brooklyn when he and the Nets weren’t on the same page for a new contract. Dallas stepped up with the right trade package, but the pairing of Irving and Luka Doncic was less than sparkling. The Mavericks were 5-11 in games both played, a mark not helped by Dallas dealing away some key role pieces to get Irving.
“You get into a relationship with Kyrie at your own risk,” a league source told Heavy. “I don’t see how him and Luka work, never did. I guess Dallas felt it was worth a shot, but even now it’s hard to see them getting the right pieces to put around them. I’m not sure you can. You’ve got two ball-dominant guys who neither one really knows how to play without the ball, and neither one knows how to defend. It’s not a winning situation. I
“f you want to win championships, you have to have two-way players. They don’t have two-way players. Neither one of those two guys want to sully themselves with the arduous task of playing defense on a night in-night out basis. So what happens is they don’t, and sooner or later the other dudes say the hell with this.
“Look at Boston with (Jayson) Tatum and (Jaylen) Brown. Those guys play defense. Look at some of the plays they make. And then they’ve still got great defenders around them — (Marcus) Smart, (Rob) Williams, (Derrick) White. That’s how you win in this league. You don’t see that in Dallas — at least not right now.”