The Lakers got the best news of the offseason this week when LeBron James signed a two-year extension that will keep him in Los Angeles for the immediate future. With that settled, the Lakers could now look to be more aggressive in the final weeks of the offseason.
That’s the focus of the latest rumors and headlines.
LeBron really wants Kyrie
The timing of LeBron’s extension was perhaps a little surprising as it preceded any type of trade to further improve the Lakers roster this offseason. There was any sort of order that things could have unfolded this offseason, but LeBron knocking over the first domino changes how the Lakers can approach this offseason.
While it may have been a surprise, there was confidence around the team that James would sign the extension, as reported by Jovan Buha of The Athletic. At the same time, James has remained pretty insistent on what he wants done for the remainder of this offseason by the Lakers.
Those around the team were confident that James signing an extension was likely, considering how much he’s enjoyed playing for the Lakers and living in Los Angeles. The primary complication in James’ decision was that he has been privately adamant that the Lakers still need to improve the current roster and trade for superstar point guard Kyrie Irving, league sources have told The Athletic.
James’ insistence on the Lakers landing Kyrie is not new and has been previously reported this offseason. And while it once felt something close to inevitable that he would be a Laker, it feels much different now (more on that shortly).
For James to sign off on staying with the Lakers would seem to indicate that he either has a belief in the front office. Or it indicates a move is in the offing to, indeed, improve the Lakers...
Nets want impact players in Kyrie trade
Effectively, what the Lakers can offer the Nets in a trade for Kyrie is getting out of the wild ride and a couple of distant lottery tickets in the form of draft picks. For a while, that was an enticing package.
But with the season inching closer and the Nets no longer looking like a team that’s going to blow everything up, their priorities have changed. And as longtime NBA beat writer Marc Stein reported on Thursday, their desires in a trade package have changed, too (via NBA Central/Twitter).
The Nets’ current stance, sources say, is that they are unwilling to send out Irving in a trade if the deal solely brings back future assets.
If that’s what the Nets are after, the Lakers won’t be able to offer it. But that doesn’t mean that the deal can’t be done as some variation of the three-team deals that have also been discussed. A deal with the Spurs was discussed at one point, though it’s unclear what that package would look like with San Antonio devoid of talent themselves.
But all that assumes the Lakers actually want to put the pieces on the table needed to acquire Kyrie.
Lakers remain reluctant in trade talks
Effectively any idea of trading away Russell Westbrook requires the team parting ways with a pair of draft picks and if that remains a non-starter, then things aren’t really going to change. On Thursday, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN appeared on Get Up and broke down some of the Lakers’ thinking in trade talks.
Woj on Get Up this morning key points.— AJ ™ (@AJsHoopHype) August 18, 2022
- Lakers are not willing to give up two first in a deal with Indiana.
- The only deal they would give up two first is a deal for Irving.
- Reiterates he believes the Lakers roster will be improved at least subtly before the season. pic.twitter.com/NAPR7xDmpp
That’s not the only report indicating that the Lakers aren’t ready and willing to part ways with draft picks. In an article on Thursday, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report also indicated the Lakers aren’t going to include multiple draft picks in every trade.
Per several sources connected to teams like the Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs, the Lakers have not been willing to part with significant draft capital to get off Westbrook’s contract. But that may have been tied to uncertainty surrounding James’ future, which is now put to rest.
So long as this remains their stance, it’s hard to envision the team finding a landing spot for Russ. But it’s also fair to wonder how many of those talks came before LeBron signed his extension, a move that is certain to have ripple effects on the remainder of the offseason for the Lakers.