After having so much momentum last week, the trade talks between the Lakers and Nets appear to have slowed to a crawl. While the conversation between the two teams remains ongoing, Kyrie Irving’s arrival in Lakerland no longer feels quite as imminent.
Now, there is a growing sense that Brooklyn doesn’t represent the only option for the Lakers to move off of Russell Westbrook’s contract.
Let’s take a look at the latest headlines and rumors.
Much of Kyrie Irving’s appeal to Laker fans is that he represents the best, and at one point, only available player who would represent a clear upgrade in comparison to Westbrook.
However, as free agency has played out, perhaps predictably, a few more options have presented themselves, as reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN on NBA Today on Wednesday (via Nets Daily).
Then, there’s the Lakers’ motivation. They’ve looked at other deals. They continued, I know, to check in on Eric Gordon in Houston. That’s certainly a player that interests them. Buddy Hield in Indiana ... the Lakers certainly are looking out at the marketplace but there’s no question Kyrie Irving is one of them.”
Wojnarowski’s reporting backs that of Dave McMenamin, who mentioned the same names as potential Plan B options for the Lakers should a deal for Irving fail to manifest.
The names are two that fans are familiar with and that the team has long been linked to. They also represent realistic options as the Pacers have already unloaded Malcolm Brogdon and could soon do the same for Hield, while the Rockets are multiple years into a rebuild.
Discussing backup plans, though, does not mean the chances of landing Kyrie Irving are now nil.
Lakers-Nets still having discussions
As much as the Lakers may be looking at Plan B, Plan A remains Kyrie, and conversations with the Nets remain open as Wojnarowski also reported on Wednesday (again via Nets Daily).
“I think that’s another consideration Brooklyn has to make about whether it’s a positive or negative to move Kyrie Irving either before Kevin Durant or after Kevin Durant. The market is certainly very different for Kevin Durant than it is for Kyrie Irving.”
“The Nets have talked with the Lakers and I believe there has been back-and-forth, some communication. You look at where there’s cap space right now and a team like San Antonio could be a facilitator right now in let’s say a Russell Westbrook for Kyrie Irving deal between the teams. They have the cap space. Now, you have to incentivize them at a pretty high level and I think that’s the willingness of the Lakers to incentivize a deal with multiple draft picks. I think that’s part of the reason that the deal hasn’t gone anywhere yet.”
“That could always change. Rob Pelinka and Sean Marks are in Vegas this week and moving forward. I’m sure they’ll have conversations there, but I do think that is part of the equation for Brooklyn is again, is it ... do they handle the Kevin Durant deal first and then revisit this?”
It seems like things are being put on hold until Summer League when teams and front office can have face-to-face meetings that might lead to more things getting done. But until then, it sounds like talks are largely on hold barring some sort of unexpected breakthrough.
Even then, the Lakers remain the favorite to land Irving not just because they’re one of the only teams interested, but because Kyrie wants to be in Los Angeles long-term.
Kyrie wants LA
Perhaps the aspect of these negotiations that hasn’t been discussed enough is the fact that Kyrie wants to be in Los Angeles. Considering he’s an expiring contract, that will factor into any other team trading for him and almost certainly is a reason no other team has really emerged as a suitor.
On Wednesday, following Wojnarowski’s reporting on NBA Today, McMenamin added that Irving had “put out signals” that he was focused on getting to Southern California.
If Irving is focused on Los Angeles, then giving up assets for a rental is already enough of a non-starter. And when that player is Kyrie, it’s all sorts of “Nope!” from other teams.
For the Lakers, the only reason this is intriguing is because of how bad the situation is with Westbrook. No one else has that type of situation which makes the Lakers the Nets’ only potential trade partner willing to trade anything for him. It’s also why the Lakers saying they may have backup plans carries some weight, while the Nets’ bluffing carries little.