clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Rumor Roundup: Kyrie Irving wants to ‘shut down’ Lakers talk, also may have started Lakers talk

Kyrie Irving reportedly does not want people to talk about him leaving the Mavericks for the Lakers in free agency, but he (and his camp) have a funny way of demonstrating that.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

A number of different reporters have weighed in during the aftermath of the Monday morning bombshell that Kyrie Irving has apparently tried to recruit Lakers star LeBron James to join him on the Dallas Mavericks, and more will surely continue to filter out in the hours and days to come until the NBA Draft and free agency take place over the next few weeks.

We have written (and will continue to write) about the developments on the James/Irving front, but let’s dig in on a few smaller tidbits, reports and whispers that may have flown somewhat under the radar amid some of the splashier headlines and tweets.

Kyrie Irving would apparently like people to stop talking about him potentially joining the Lakers

You could be forgiven for thinking that — between the multiple Lakers playoff games he attended and today’s leaks — Irving is trying to build the impression that he would like to join the Lakers. But according to the latest reporting from NBA insider Marc Stein, Irving is actually insisting behind the scenes that he does not want people talking about him joining the purple and gold (emphasis mine, via Stein’s latest column on Substack):

It has naturally been suggested, as a result, that Irving’s motivation to lobby for a trade to bring James to Dallas stems as much as anything from a desire to convince the Lakers to amend their stance and come after him. That would certainly make more sense than expending energy trying to lure James to a team A) without the means to get him and B) that is still trying to work out whether one ball is enough for Dončić and Irving and how to build a passable defense around them after the duo went 5-11 in uniform together en route to Dallas’ 11th-place finish in the West.

Yet two sources close to the process insisted Monday that Irving has consistently expressed a desire to remain a Maverick and actually wants to shut down the notion that he’s angling to get to L.A.

“He wants to stay,” said one source.

Irving also appeared to fire back at the media reports about him with a post on his Instagram story:

How much you believe Irving a) actually wants to stay with Dallas and/or b) doesn’t want people to discuss him and the Lakers is, of course, up to you. If I were a pending free agent who had tried to get traded to a team twice in the last calendar year, then missed the playoffs and then didn’t want people to talk about me joining that aforementioned team, I probably would not attend their playoff games multiple times.

But that’s just me. Kyrie is obviously free to dare to be different in order to lead us into tomorrow.

LeBron James did not leak this story

A lot of the online conversation in the wake of Shams Charania and Chris Haynes’ near-simultaneous reports about Irving recruiting James to Dallas on Monday morning was speculation about who would have leaked this story and why.

Well, Dave McMenamin of ESPN gave us a pretty good idea during an appearance on the “Sedano and Kap” show on ESPN 710 Los Angeles. McMenamin, who is arguably the most plugged-in reporter to James and his camp, said during that radio hit that James “had absolutely nothing to do with this story” while coming about as close as you’ll ever hear any reporter to explicitly pointing at who leaked a story to another outlet (emphasis mine):

“Listen, this is a non-story... Of course The Athletic, Bleacher Report, they’re not making up what they’re printing. But what they’re being told, clearly this is not from LeBron James’ side of things. This is a one-man operation, this is from the Kyrie Irving camp. And when that information gets disseminated, there’s no ‘but what about LeBron’s contract?’ or ‘LeBron has to ask for a buyout? that’s asinine, this isn’t going to go anywhere.’ But clearly people who are close to Kyrie Irving want this out there for a reason, and that reason hasn’t shown itself quite yet.

“I checked in with a Dallas source, (they said) ‘LeBron ain’t coming here.’ I texted with a Lakers source, (they said) ‘We haven’t spent any time with that today.’ So again, it’s a non-starter. So in this case it’s good to discuss it with you guys, for any listener who was curious about it, maybe just saw the headline and maybe thought this was something attached to LeBron (or) LeBron trying to get attention during the NBA Finals. No. LeBron James had absolutely nothing to do with this story.”

It’s worth noting that in addition to having good sourcing with James’ representatives at Klutch Sports, Charania and Haynes have also both broken the news of just about every development in Irving’s on-again, off-again trade requests over the last year.

Haynes was the first to get Irving’s agent and stepmother, Shetellia Irving, on the record about the Nets not negotiating an extension with Irving, while Charania broke the news that Irving would try to get to the Lakers last June, that Irving would stay in Brooklyn, and then that he would demand a trade again. So the fact that those two would get a story that seemed to be deliberately planted by Irving and/or his camp for reasons only they can know for certain would not exactly be surprising.

In addition to the theory he posited above, though, Stein also had one other hypothesis for why Irving would leak this today:

My immediate reaction to Monday’s reports: It behooves Irving to advance the idea that he can lead a Dallas push for James. Amid a belief in various corners of the league that Dallas would prefer to sign Irving to the most team-friendly deal that the sides can agree upon, Irving’s value to the Mavericks theoretically increases if his ability to recruit is factored in — especially given the Mavericks’ well-documented struggles in free agency for years despite Mark Cuban’s reputation of as one of the NBA’s most player-friendly owners.

But while one other plausible goal may have been to create the illusion that Irving could lure James to Dallas in order to get the Lakers to reopen their pursuit of Irving, thus forcing Dallas to pay up in order to keep him, it doesn’t sound like the Lakers have much interest in helping Irving get his next deal by making themselves a suitor for him at the max, because...

The Lakers only have interest in Kyrie Irving at a discount, but don’t think he’s willing to take one

If Irving is hoping to get the Lakers to leak they’d clear their books for him and make him a priority — thus forcing the Mavericks to up their bid for his services — they do not appear to be cooperating. Jovan Buha of The Athletic wrote straight up that the team “maintained on Monday that they aren’t interested in adding Irving this summer.”

In the same radio appearance mentioned above, McMenamin didn’t quite go that far, but did say that the team only wants Irving at a discount:

“Listen, Kyrie Irving the basketball player at a certain price, without having to sacrifice the depth that proved to be so vital in your trip to the Western Conference Finals? Yes. In that specific narrow lane, the Lakers have interest in Kyrie Irving. Is that a lane that is attainable? Very, very doubtful. And really, the first step would be that Kyrie Irving would have to take a major pay reduction vs. what he can get paid (in Dallas).”

Buha also wrote that James hasn’t even pushed all that hard for the Lakers to pursue his former teammate a third time, and that the Lakers are taking all this as another sign Irving won’t take a discount to join them:

From the moment James hinted at retirement following the Lakers being swept by the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference finals, there was a sense among those with and around the organization that his comments were partly a tactic to apply pressure on the franchise to make a significant roster upgrade this offseason. James’ preferred upgrade, many assumed, was Irving. But one team source indicated that James is not using Irving’s interest in playing with him as leverage to try to get the Lakers to trade for Irving this offseason.

The primary takeaway from the Lakers’ perspective is that Irving isn’t interested in taking a discount to sign in free agency. Los Angeles would have to trade for him — at his projected maximum salary starting around $47 million, depending on the final salary-cap numbers — to acquire him.

Add it all up, and it just appears more and more unlikely that any of this — Irving joining the Lakers, or James joining him in Dallas — is a real possibility. Thankfully, with free agency less than a full month away, we’ll find out for certain one way or the other soon enough.

You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Silver Screen & Roll Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Los Angeles Lakers news from Silver Screen & Roll