Despite complicated obstacles to land Kyrie Irving, there continues to be buzz connecting the Los Angeles Lakers to the seven-time All-Star. Irving can become a free agent this offseason by opting out of the the final season of his four-year, $136 million deal.
The Lakers would need Irving to push his way to Los Angeles via a sign-and-trade since L.A. lacks cap space but this presents hard cap challenges. Another option would be for Irving to opt-in to the final year of his current contract then attempt to force a trade to the Lakers. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor has a three-way trade idea that sends Irving to the Lakers, Russell Westbrook to the Hornets and Gordon Hayward to the Nets.
“But the idea that I have involving that is Kyrie to the Lakers, Westbrook to the Hornets and then [Terry] Rozier and Hayward to the Nets,” O’Connor explained during a June 9 episode of “The Bill Simmons Podcast.” “Add picks, fluff it up however you want. That’s like the foundation of the deal. What do you think about that for all three of those teams? Because that connects the Marc Stein rumor right with Hornets and Lakers [trade for] Westbrook.”
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The Nets View the Lakers as a Viable Threat for Kyrie
The wild proposal has some legs given the Hornets’ rumored interest in Westbrook, but the Nets side presents the biggest challenge. The obvious question is why Brooklyn would want to move from Irving to Hayward, a significant roster downgrade.
Hayward has battled injuries in recent years playing in a combined 93 games the last two seasons and is no longer an All-Star caliber player. The challenge for the Nets is that Irving controls his future and has the ability to leave without Brooklyn receiving anything in return.
Yet, Irving has limited leverage unless he opts to take less money elsewhere. According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the Nets have some concern that Irving would bolt to Los Angeles despite the massive pay difference.
“There is a concern in Brooklyn that Kyrie, because he’s not a conventional thinker, Kyrie could be inventive enough to leave the money on the table to go play with the Lakers and reunite with LeBron, but he would really have to rattle the saber there,” Windhorst detailed on a June 23 episode of “Get Up.”
Kyrie & LeBron Have Been in ‘Recent Contact’: Report
Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka faces long odds to make any of the possible scenarios to land Irving happen. Even more of a long shot would be Irving signing with the Lakers for the exception. NBA insider Marc Stein reported that Irving has had “recent contact” with LeBron James.
“There are credible rumblings in circulation that Irving, for starters, has indeed had some recent contact with Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, his former Cleveland teammate, to presumably discuss a potential reunion in Hollywood,” Stein wrote on June 22. “I’m told it would be a stretch, though, to suggest that the Lakers are currently pursuing Irving. They do not possess the trade assets to realistically engage Brooklyn in Irving trade talks even if he exercises his player option for next season.
“Also: The Lakers, as things stand, couldn’t offer Irving more than the midlevel exception for tax-paying teams for next season if Irving bypasses his player option to opt for free agency. That MLE, remember, tops out at a projected $6.39 million. The idea of Irving declining his player option and essentially playing for $30 million less in L.A., even after the $15-plus million he willingly sacrificed last season by refusing the COVID-19 vaccine and missing the first 35 games of the season, just doesn’t seem plausible.”