When the Los Angeles Lakers were engaged in sign-and-trade talks for Kyrie Irving over the summer, one of the hurdles to a deal was that the team reportedly was not interested in giving the perpetually disgruntled All-Star the type of long-term contract he was seeking, leading to him deciding to “fulfill his four-year commitment to the Nets and Kevin Durant.”
Fast forward a few months later, and it seems that commitment is so last June. But even with Irving looking for a trade out of Brooklyn again, it doesn’t sound like the Lakers’ — or Dallas Mavericks’, for that matter — stances on providing him with the sort of long-term security he’s seeking have changed much
Let’s review. In his big story on Irving’s latest trade demand, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN detailed what Irving is looking for in terms of money:
Irving, who’s in the final year of a deal that pays him $36.9 million, has been seeking in the neighborhood of a four-year, $198.5 million maximum extension available to him until June 30, sources said. If Irving is traded, he is eligible to sign a two-year $78.6 million extension with his new team until June 30.
That’s a lot of scratch for a player who — no matter what one thinks of his various reasons for repeatedly not being available for his team — has only played more than 60 games once in the five seasons prior to this one, and will turn 31 years old in March.
And so, as you might expect, it’s not just the Nets who aren’t falling all over themselves to give it to him, per Woj (emphasis mine):
However, neither team appears inclined to make a trade with the expectation of delivering Irving the long-term, max-level contract he’s seeking, sources told ESPN. Both teams would be eligible to sign Irving to the two-year, $78.6 million maximum extension upon trading for him, but even rival teams with interest in acquiring him ahead of Thursday’s deadline are cautious about trusting Irving with those levels of commitment, sources said.
The Lakers and Mavericks are also privately expressing limitations on offering significant trade assets for Irving, sources said.
And as the fellas over at “The Hoop Collective” highlighted well in their latest episode regarding Irving’s trade request: What exactly is going to stop Irving from simply quitting on the next team that doesn’t give him exactly what he wants, again?
Set aside what you think of Irving, or if you want the Lakers to acquire him or not: In a vacuum, if the Lakers are going to trade assets for Irving, they have to extend him. There is very little argument to acquire a player who has shown, time and time again, that he will mentally — or even physically — check out at the first moment his requests aren’t met if you are not, you know, planning to fulfill his asks in order to get him to show up for work and try for more than a few months at a time.
Look no further than, again, him currently demanding the Nets trade him for the second time in less than a year while sitting in fourth place in the East because they were unwilling to reward him with almost $200 million for showing up for work and not tweeting insane shit for a few weeks.
So if the Lakers don’t want to be in the Kyrie Irving business, given his last several years and track record for complete unpredictability, that’s totally understandable. But if they do, from an asset management perspective long-term and in order to get the best out of him this year, it doesn’t make sense to do so without a plan to give him a contract you know he’d be happy with, for many of the same practical and logistical reasons my colleague Darius Soriano highlighted with Russell Westbrook’s own contract situation earlier today, as well as chemistry ones. Trading picks for Kyrie just to piss him off gets you nowhere, and if I were the Lakers, I wouldn’t even make a deal without the Nets granting permission to speak and negotiate with Irving first.
Now, the front office is surely aware of all this, but it’s still worth noting given the contrast between what they are leaking, and what would make the most sense. For now, we have to consider that this media circus could all just be the latest leverage play by Irving to try and get the Nets (or someone else) to offer him a bunch of money he’s not being offered right now.
And hey, if no one ends up giving it to him, he may just do what he did last summer: Remind us that “normal people keep the world going, but those who dare to be different lead us into tomorrow” and claim that he passed “on multiple opt-in and trade scenarios” that definitely, for sure existed “to fulfill his four-year commitment to the Nets and Kevin Durant.”