Just a week after LeBron James became the first NBA player to unequivocally condemn Kyrie Irving’s decision to post a link to an antisemitic film on his Twitter account, the Los Angeles Lakers star took to his own handle on the social media hellsite to argue that Irving’s punishment by the Nets was “excessive.”
Why the quick, seeming about-face? Well, some within the NBA — and inside the Lakers themselves — reportedly believe there is a bit more to it than LeBron simply standing with his fellow union member.
Zach Lowe of ESPN reported on the latest episode of his eponymous “The Lowe Post” podcast that some people within the Lakers think that LeBron was advocating for the team to renew their pursuit of Irving (emphasis mine):
“I don’t know why LeBron said. Maybe he said it because he believes it and there is nothing else to it. I can tell you around the league — and even within the Lakers, some corners of it — those comments were read as LeBron... at least opening the door to ‘hey, if you all are comfortable with it and all the blowback it would be, and the Nets are willing to just get out of the business now, of Kyrie Irving, so we can get him for much cheaper, not both picks, maybe one pick?’ ... Doris, I don’t even know how to construct a Kyrie Irving trade right now for nine million different reasons. Maybe he’s laying the groundwork for maybe (the Nets) waive him and he never meets those conditions...
“This was read around the league as — again, not by me I don’t know how to read it — it was read around the league as LeBron indicating ‘if you guys want to consider it, I’m not going to stand in your way.’”
The timing of LeBron’s tweets coming just hours before an anonymously sourced story in which he and his agency fairly transparently argued that the Lakers need to make moves would seemingly also lend credence to that theory.
Now, for a variety of reasons, it’s hard to think about Irving as just a basketball player right now. I’m not going to reiterate why I feel that way here, go ahead and read my prior story for that. It also seems fairly unlikely that the Lakers would trade for a player who is currently suspended for posting a link to an antisemitic movie until he returns and plays games for the Nets again, if that ever happens. For what it’s worth, things do seem to be trending that way, for now.
NEW: In sit down, Adam Silver discusses Kyrie Irving. Says Irving isn't antisemitic and that the criticism for the league's delay in disciplining him "may be fair." Also says, the Nets and league are working w/ Irving on "what remediation is appropriate." https://t.co/jeNfqSUgY6— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) November 11, 2022
Updated and revised our lead story including that it's unlikely that Kyrie Irving will return while the Nets are on their first West Coast road trip. https://t.co/Uz5ukgAfss— NetsDaily (@NetsDaily) November 11, 2022
Putting all of that aside for now, though, it’s hard not to argue the same thing many of us argued this summer: Replacing Russell Westbrook with Kyrie Irving would improve the Lakers as a basketball team. I, personally, would not argue for such a move right now because of everything else that comes with it, but sports teams are hardly bastions of morality. The Lakers are no exception in that regard, having shown interest in or employed plenty of less-than-model citizens over the years.
That’s why I ultimately believe that if such a deal was on the table for the right price, they’d probably do it, LeBron tweets or no LeBron tweets, making all of this a bit moot anyway. Still, to be as far as possible, the team was reportedly reticent to offer Irving a long-term deal this summer, so we know they had at least some reservations about him even before this latest incident.
As far as major takeaways from this report, though, it is notable to have the timing of all the events of yesterday confirmed as coming across exactly the same way to some within the team as it was by many of us outside of it. Whether or not James’ apparent Irving advocacy ultimately results in anything is anyone’s guess, and would likely be a ways off either way, but at least for now, it seems like the door has not entirely closed on this summer’s most theorized potential addition.