Heading into the decisive week of the Kyrie Irving saga’s latest chapter, things are seriously starting to heat up. Two days before he must decide to either pick up or decline his player option, Kyrie reportedly requested permission to seek a sign-and-trade from the Nets, according to Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News.
In fact, things are trending the opposite direction: While Nets GM Sean Marks and superstar forward Kevin Durant have yet to speak this offseason, Irving’s camp has requested and received permission from the Nets to speak with other teams about sign-and-trade packages, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation.
Adding to that report was Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, who stated that the Lakers are the only team interested in dealing for Irving.
ESPN Sources: Outside of the Lakers, there are currently no known teams planning pursuit of sign-and-trades for Nets G Kyrie Irving. No sign-and-trades can be formally discussed until after 6 PM on Thursday. Brooklyn isn't believed to have interest in available Lakers packages.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 27, 2022
Previously, Irving gave the Nets a list of teams that he’d be open to being traded to, but the Lakers appear to be the only team on that list with a mutual interest in trading for Irving.
That being said, as Woj notes, there isn’t mutual interest from the Nets in what the Lakers can offer in a trade, which is effectively Russell Westbrook and a couple of draft picks. Short of a three-team deal that hasn’t been rumored in any way, there’s not a likely scenario in which Irving is dealt to the Lakers.
In that scenario, it means all sides are calling Irving’s bluff that he would just decline his option and turn down lots of millions of dollars. As Winfield notes, the teams that have cap space this summer don’t seem to have much interest in Irving.
But they do not have the cap space to replace Irving if he leaves as a free agent, and the only teams that have the cap space to sign Irving need much more than the star guard’s services if they’re going to make the playoffs, let alone compete for a championship.
And that means the most likely outcome for Irving if he does simply decline his option would for him to land in Los Angeles. Again, that would only come if Irving chooses to sacrifice $30 million, which is why the Nets seem to be calling his perceived bluff that he’ll walk away from that money if they don’t deal him
But even then, the growing sentiment around the league seems to be that Irving will, in fact, opt out of his deal to sign for about $6 million with the Lakers if the Nets refuse to trade him there, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.
There's still plenty of time here. Kyrie Irving has until precisely 5 p.m. ET to decide on his opt-in. There are many skeptical that Irving will be willing to sacrifice $36-plus million. We will find out soon enough. https://t.co/OYGsCi4gPJ— Jake Fischer (@JakeLFischer) June 27, 2022
Irving could still just be posturing for leverage. Similar to how the Lakers have tried to make teams believe they won’t trade Russ, Kyrie might just be trying to make the Nets believe he’ll really opt out in order to induce his preferred outcome.
Is Kyrie serious? We won’t know until he makes a decision on his player option.
Ultimately, then, Irving’s request on Monday to discuss sign-and-trade options isn’t a surprise, nor is the lack of interest across the league. This is all building to Wednesday when Irving has to make that aforementioned decision on his player option, and only then will we have a firmer grip on what is in store for his future.