Among the many trades talks the Lakers have had this summer, none felt more serious or more like a home run swing than their attempts at a disgruntled Kyrie Irving. The Nets guard attempted to maneuver an exit from the franchise with Los Angeles being his preferred destination.
And while things felt like they may have gotten close, ultimately the two sides could not come to an agreement and Irving did not switch coasts. However, with Irving on an expiring deal, the thought was that it would simply be an extra year until the guard became a Laker.
However, as reported by Shams Charania, Sam Amick and Jovan Buha of The Athletic, the interest in a future partnership between Irving and the Lakers may not be mutual (emphasis mine).
Throughout the summer, Irving was the prized superstar whose name was front and center of Lakers fans. Sources say the Lakers made multiple inquiries and submitted concepts to the Nets on potential Irving deals in July and August, but upon opting into his $36.9 million player option in late June, Irving had committed to Brooklyn for the upcoming season.
So as July wore on and led into August, Brooklyn shut the door on any Irving trade – closing the window on a Irving-James reunion. The Nets made clear they had no intention to move Irving and ultimately resolved Kevin Durant’s trade request to continue building their championship hopes around All-Stars in Irving, Durant and Ben Simmons. As for the prospect of adding Irving via free agency next summer, sources say he’s currently not a part of the Lakers’ long-term plans.
Allow me to be the first one to call the Lakers bluff. Perhaps it’s a negotiating tactic or the Lakers playing hard to get. but this franchise is hardly in a position to suddenly be turning down All-NBA caliber guards who have interest in them.
Now, there are going to be off-court concerns about Irving that seem likely to exist until the end of his career that would be very viable reasons to not pursue him. But those yellow flags existed when the Lakers were pursuing a trade for him, so it’s hard to imagine that suddenly is a defining factor in their decision now.
Mathematically, there would be some hurdles to clear as the Lakers’ projected maximum cap space ($34 million) falls short of Irving’s maximum contract, but we also just went through a summer where many around the league believed he was going to sacrifice $30 million to take the taxpayer mid-level exception instead of opting into the final year of his deal.
Realistically, there doesn’t seem to be any reason that would have arisen in the months since pursuing him via trade that would stop them from going after Irving. The only realistic thing that could change matters is if the team did find a deal for Russell Westbrook — like with the Indiana Pacers — that led to them bringing back long-term money, something they remain open to.
But if the Lakers don’t move Westbrook and head into next summer with a host of cap space, it’s hard to fathom Irving won’t be priority No. 1.