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The Lakers would reportedly ‘love’ to have Kyrie Irving, but one of their ‘top recruiters’ believes he’s already headed to Nets

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It sounds like the Lakers are no longer very confident they can get Kyrie Irving to join LeBron James and Anthony Davis in free agency.

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On Thursday night, there was a report that the Los Angeles Lakers were targeting Kyrie Irving as highly as Kawhi Leonard now that they have assembled max cap space heading into NBA free agency, but it sounds like the team may no longer believe that bringing in Irving is possible.

Joe Vardon of The Athletic reports that one of the team’s “top recruiters” is pretty sure Irving is headed to the Brooklyn Nets, as has been widely reported.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reiterated this, saying the Nets and Irving are expected to reach a deal fairly quickly:

If the Lakers don’t sign Irving or Leonard, it’s believed that they’ll split up their approximately $32 million in cap space among role players as they attempt to build around LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

In other words, it’s Leonard or bust for the Lakers at this point, which could put them in a tough situation depending on how long Leonard’s decision takes.

According to Wojnarowski, Leonard is expected to meet with the Lakers, Clippers, New York Knicks and, of course, the Toronto Raptors over the coming days. The Lakers and Clippers will meet with Leonard when the free agency moratorium period begins on Sunday, per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

While it’s possible that Leonard will meet with the Knicks and Raptors the same day, it’s more likely that this process carries on through Monday or later. By then, it’s not unrealistic to assume that some of their “Plan B” options will be off the market, including D’Angelo Russell, who the Nets are expected to renounce if they get a commitment from Irving:

Russell will meet with the Minnesota Timberwolves at the start of free agency, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

The Timberwolves don’t have the cap space to make a competitive offer for Russell, but the Nets are reportedly open to the idea of a sign-and-trade to get Russell to his desired destination, which could be in Minnesota with his good friend Karl-Anthony Towns:

If the Lakers get a commitment from Leonard next week, this will be a complete non-issue. However, if Leonard opts to sign with another team, Los Angeles could enter a pretty barren free agent market with $32 million in cap space. It’s quite the tightrope they’re walking, and it will be interesting to see how they navigate it over the days to come.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. Here is a list of every free agent credibly connected to the Lakers so far.