We already knew that the Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers all had some degree of interest in Kyrie Irving, but on Saturday, a new team entered the 2023 NBA trade deadline’s saddest, most chaotic and high-stakes game of musical chairs: The LA Clippers.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and Law Murray of The Athletic dropped our latest heaping helping of trade slop as the Lakers were winding down their Saturday collapse against the New Orleans Pelicans:
The Nets are proceeding in talks as though they’re determined to find a deal for Irving ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline, sources said.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 5, 2023
Sources tell @TheAthletic that the LA Clippers have made a strong offer to the Brooklyn Nets for Kyrie Irving, and that head coach Tyronn Lue is open to coaching Irving again after the two won a championship with Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016.— Law Murray (@LawMurrayTheNU) February 5, 2023
@TheAthletic— Law Murray (@LawMurrayTheNU) February 5, 2023
Why the hell would the Clippers even consider breaking up their depth and risking their chemistry for Kyrie Irving, a player who is consistently unavailable?
Because the door was never quite closed between Tyronn Lue and Kyrie Irving. https://t.co/vFMq0gxyIK
“It would seem that Wall, Jackson, Covington, and Kennard are the primary trade candidates in a potential Irving deal.”— NBACentral (@TheNBACentral) February 5, 2023
- @LawMurrayTheNU on the Clippers interest in Kyrie Irving pic.twitter.com/Axoc8tNMBA
Could this just be a leverage play by the Lakers’ co-tenants at The Crypt to try and convince Rob Pelinka and Co. to give up too much in a deal for Irving? Could this be the Nets just trying to use Sean Marks’ favorite NBA insider to juice the market for Irving? The very well-sourced in New York Ian Begley of SNY certainly seemed to hint he thinks it’s the latter in his latest report on Saturday night:
.@IanBegley on the Clippers’ rumored interest in Kyrie Irving: “They’ve told people that I’ve been in touch with that they’re not that interested in Irving. So maybe that’s more so coming from the Nets.” https://t.co/kMX3nfbJde— Kristian Winfield (@Krisplashed) February 5, 2023
But while either leverage scenario seems entirely possible, it also seems just as plausible that the Clippers would be willing to make a gamble on Irving.
For one, Steve Ballmer is basically addicted to going all-in, and with the Clippers well across the league’s luxury tax line and somewhat limited in future draft picks they can trade as a result of their deal for Paul George (they can currently only offer a 2028 first), acquiring a mercurial, discounted star like Irving is one of the team’s main ways to improve right now and push even more chips into the center of the table this year.
The Clippers have also been chasing a point guard upgrade since trading picks for Rajon Rondo at the 2021 NBA trade deadline, and for whatever unpredictability Irving possesses on and off the court, he’d certainly be the best player they’ve had at that position during the Kawhi Leonard/George era in a vacuum.
Now, as we discussed last night and my friend Dave King highlighted well over at Bright Side of the Sun, the situation with Kyrie never exists in a vacuum. You are always waiting for the next, no-longer-Nike-sponsored shoe to drop with him. But just like the Lakers can convince themselves that Irving has never been less mercurial than he was during his time in Cleveland alongside known Irving advocates LeBron James and Phil Handy, the Clippers can likewise talk themselves into the same point when it comes to Irving playing under Tyronn Lue. Just because it is hard for me to picture a funnier mix of locker room personalities than Kyrie/Kawhi/PG, that doesn’t mean I can’t also acknowledge it could work out (just like it could with the Lakers).
It’s just not what I would be betting on.
But will either side feel enough confidence in their mix of personalities to mesh with Irving to convince themselves to go even more all-in as their intracity battle continues? We may just find out ahead of the Feb. 9 trade deadline. Mercifully, there are just a few days left to go now.
For all the latest heading into the NBA trade deadline, check out our Silver Screen and Roll Lakers trade rumors tracker.