Perhaps one of the aspects about a Kyrie Irving acquisition for the Lakers that hasn’t been discussed enough is the relationship between LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Years ago, it was that relationship which played some role in their split from Cleveland.
For things to move along this offseason, there would likely need to be a reconciliation of sorts between James and Irving. But based on the latest reports, the two appear to have come to an understanding that could clear the way to them teaming up again.
All that and more in today’s headlines and rumors.
Irving wants to team back up with LeBron
One of the interesting headlines in recent months, especially in hindsight, was when Kyrie Irving expressed regret with how he left Cleveland. That likely laid the foundation then for what would become the path for him to join the Lakers this summer.
Now, those around the NBA believe Kyrie is working to get his way back to LeBron, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic.
Kyrie Irving to the Lakers chatter is "somewhat substantive," according to @sam_amick.— The Athletic NBA (@TheAthleticNBA) June 24, 2022
"You've got people within the league actually thinking ... 'Man, I think he might find a way to get back with LeBron.'" pic.twitter.com/ZTNyf2SAjq
As Amick says, LeBron would open that door, which is an important factor in this. Perhaps last season’s failures with the Lakers have made LeBron more forgiving, or perhaps it’s the old age, but his mindset has changed from his initial reaction of confusion and frustration immediately after Kyrie’s departure from Cleveland.
LeBron wants to team back up with Kyrie
This isn’t a one-way street of Kyrie needing LeBron, though. LeBron is aware of how much teaming up with Kyrie would improve the Lakers. According to Kyle Goon of the OC Register, he is among many within the Lakers who see Irving as an improvement (emphasis mine).
Clearly if James were burned forever by Irving requesting a trade in 2017, there would be no smoke to speak of with the Lakers. Multiple reporters, such as Marc Stein, have said there is communication between James and Irving as the situation with the Nets continues to stall out. James is one believer that Irving can help the Lakers, and conversations I’ve had around the team indicate he’s not the only one. It may be that James and others who have been around Irving believe that he’ll be willing to do what is necessary to win in L.A. – or maybe they simply believe the on-court factors will outweigh the off-court factors.
None of this makes the actual acquisition of Irving any easier. There still either needs to be the giant leap of faith that Irving would turn down $30 million or the faint hope of a three-team trade that is only marginally more likely.
But in the player empowerment era of the NBA, there’s a long history of players asking/demanding to go to a specific team and eventually landing there, even if this would be perhaps one of the biggest tests of that idea.
Two draft day Lakers trades?
The Lakers made a trade on draft day to acquire the No. 35 pick, eventually selecting Michigan State wing Max Christie. Jovan Buha of The Athletic revealed a couple of things in his post-draft piece on the selection, including the fact that Christie was the highest remaining prospect on their draft board and that the team nearly made another trade.
Christie, a 6-foot-6 wing out of Michigan State, was the highest remaining prospect on the Lakers’ draft board, league sources told The Athletic. The Lakers had hoped Gonzaga guard Andrew Nembhard, the No. 31 pick, would fall to them at No. 35, sources said. Kendall Brown, the No. 48 pick, was also in consideration for Los Angeles at No. 35. The Lakers considered purchasing another second-round pick to draft Brown, sources said.
Kendall Brown was taken by the Pacers and, similar to Christie, is a bit more of a project as a prospect than someone who can make an immediate impact. It is interesting that the team was considering adding a second draft pick that perhaps might not have been an instant-impact player, but with so many empty roster spots, there is some room to spare.