After spending the better part of the last seven months circling one another in some form or fashion, the standoff between the Lakers and Nets came to an end this weekend when Kyrie Irving was dealt to the Mavericks.
Irving landing in Dallas was a move that came despite the Lakers giving it an honest go at trading for him. The Lakers offer, however, was deemed insufficient for the Nets, who countered with a much larger package that never gained traction from the other end and the two sides remained far apart until Irving was dealt.
What were the sticking points in the two sides and why couldn’t they come to an agreement? Jovan Buha of The Athletic broke down the three biggest differences between the Lakers and Nets in trade talks in his latest piece.
First, and most important for the Lakers, was the matter of Irving’s contract extension. As reported by the Los Angeles Times and The Athletic’s Sam Amick, the Lakers were seeking to sign Irving to a two-year, $80-plus million extension upon acquiring him, the most they could offer before June 30. That would have tied Irving’s tenure to LeBron James, who is under contract through the 2024-25 season (with a player option for the final year). Irving, however, preferred to enter 2023 free agency, with the goal of signing a four-year deal for about $198 million after June 30. The uncertainty regarding Irving’s future in Los Angeles beyond this season stopped the Lakers from increasing their offer.
The hesitancy in committing to Kyrie long-term is one we discussed when the reports initially came out. If Irving had been comfortable with a two-year extension, he would almost certainly be a Laker. Without that assurance, the Lakers weren’t going to commit to him over four years, which is very understandable.
The second hold-up involved the inclusion of Max Christie and Austin Reaves. The Nets wanted those two included on top of pick swaps while the Lakers held firm in not including their two young prospects as they view them as part of the future.
On Monday, Reaves was asked about having his name included in talks and also the Lakers not wanting to trade him.
I asked Austin Reaves about being in trade rumors and what it means to hear that the Lakers didn’t want to include him.— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) February 6, 2023
His response: “It means a lot. I want to be here. I want to be a part of what we got going on.” pic.twitter.com/zLdJVPN4Y0
The last sticking point involved the Nets’ desire for win-now players that the Lakers simply could not offer.
Third, the Nets valued players that could help them remain competitive around Kevin Durant over draft picks that wouldn’t materialize until the second half of the decade. A large reason the Nets ultimately chose Dallas’ offer for Irving – and also considered an offer from the LA Clippers – was because it was centered around players who better complemented the Nets’ current roster. With the Nets showing little interest in Westbrook, the Lakers couldn’t compete with the Mavericks, Clippers or even the Phoenix Suns on the win-now front.
Westbrook’s value in a trade is to help teams get off long-term money. For the Nets with Irving already an expiring, he holds no value to them in that regard. As I noted at the time, the Mavericks deal simply made more sense than the Lakers if the sole objective was to remain competitive in the short term, which it probably should be with Durant on the roster.
Add all that up and it results in the Lakers and Nets not being able to agree to a deal, regardless of how disappointed it made LeBron James. While the front office has taken its fair share of criticism, they probably deserve some plaudits here for standing their ground and not going all-in on one of the most unreliable players in recent memory.
For all the latest heading into the NBA trade deadline, check out our Silver Screen and Roll Lakers trade rumors tracker. You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.