Sometimes, when things fall in your lap, it’s best to take advantage of the situation rather than try to explain it or, even worse, try to somehow get more out of the miracle you clearly didn’t deserve. For the Lakers, a Kyrie Irving-Russell Westbrook swap represented a get out of jail (albeit not free) card, though it’s starting to sound like balking at the asking price might have cost them that out.
To be absolutely clear, we don’t know for sure that Brooklyn would have accepted the Lakers’ offer of both first rounders to take back Westbrook and send Irving to L.A. Yes, some reports indicate that might’ve been the case, but there’s just as much reporting on Brooklyn remaining focused on finding a resolution to their Kevin Durant problems first before making a decision on Irving.
One thing we do know, though: If the Lakers never made their best offer, then Brooklyn was never going to entertain moving Irving for even less than his currently depressed market price.
All that said, if (again, emphasis on “if”) Rob Pelinka had an opportunity to move Westbrook, someone who is so disinclined to return to the Lakers that he allegedly fired his own agent of 14 years for merely advising him to, and bring in Irving because the asking price of two first-round picks half a decade from now was too steep, then there simply isn’t any reason he should continue in his current position.
Moving Westbrook and his albatross of a contract was always going to cost a pick.
Landing a player as talented as Irving will always cost at least one first rounder.
If Brooklyn ever asked for those two picks for Irving, even if it meant the Lakers had to take on Joe Harris’ contract, cool. Accept the offer while the world was crumbling around Sean Marks before things can have a chance to settle down.
And guess what, things have calmed considerably.
Deandre Ayton re-signing complicates a Durant trade to Phoenix. Miami can’t send Bam Adebayo to Brooklyn because of the designated player exception rule, and Toronto won’t include Scottie Barnes. So as of now, Brooklyn is basically saying they’ll wait it out and are using that as an excuse to let the Lakers twist in the wind as LeBron James, all of Klutch and Irving apply their own pressure.
But if the Lakers had just made their best offer and, by extension, the best offer Brooklyn will get on Irving, then perhaps this all could’ve been avoided and the focus could be on the upcoming season.
Yes, Pelinka could continue to hold out. Maybe a Durant trade that checks enough boxes for Brooklyn to be more comfortable parting with Kyrie for less than they’d like finally appears, and then he’d get to use that get out of jail card after all. Keep in mind that training camps don’t open for more than a month, and James can’t sign his extension until early August. So there’s still room to wait.
But if Brooklyn remains emboldened by the pervasive thinking around the league that Durant will not hold out or cause problems like his contemporaries, then the Lakers run the risk of sitting there in their current jail cells with nothing but the mistakes that put them there and the chance to miraculously escape they might’ve passed up to consider.
This week on “The Hook,” Aaron Larsuel and I discussed all this, what to make of Westbrook firing long-time agent Thad Foucher, James playing at Drew League and more — including my LeBron-Vegas analogy that Aaron seems to enjoy maybe a little too much.
You can listen to the full episode below, and to make sure you never miss a show, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts.
And for a short-form recap pod, check out Lakers Lowdown, in which Anthony Irwin recaps the previous day’s news and gets you ready for the day ahead in LakerLand, every weekday morning on the Silver Screen & Roll Podcast feed.