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.
Also, according to a source, while the Lakers ostensibly would love to have Kyrie Irving, it is the belief of one of their top recruiters that Kyrie is headed to Brooklyn— Joe Vardon (@joevardon) June 29, 2019
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reiterated this, saying the Nets and Irving are expected to reach a deal fairly quickly:
Free agent Kyrie Irving is meeting with the Brooklyn Nets in New York on Sunday and both sides are motivated to move quickly toward reaching a 4-year, $141M deal, league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 29, 2019
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:
Once Kyrie Irving commits to a deal, Nets are expected to renounce All-Star guard D'Angelo Russell and allow him to become an unrestricted free agent, league sources tell ESPN. Russell led Nets to the playoffs this past season. There's tremendous league-wide interest in Russell. https://t.co/cJSryXSUJV— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 29, 2019
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:
Nets will be willing to work with Russell and his reps on ways to get him to a team of his choice, including sign-and-trade scenarios, league sources tell ESPN. If Russell and Nets found a sign-and-trade deal that works for both, obviously, there's no need to renounce his rights.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 29, 2019
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.
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