Clippers have interest in acquiring Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving

With a dramatic late push, the Clippers emerged victorious on Saturday.

Still unknown is the larger question surrounding the franchise: Will their participation in the Kyrie Irving Sweepstakes allow them to exit the NBA’s trade deadline with a point guard?

With all the drama unfolding at Madison Square Garden, Nicolas Batum’s last-second three-pointer held off a 17-point collapse from the Clippers in the fourth quarter to force overtime and eventually lead to a 134-128 win over the New York Knicks was just as in the spotlight on the Clippers’ action with the team a few miles away across the East River.

The Clippers are pursuing a trade for Irving, the Brooklyn point guard, confirmed people with knowledge of the situation but not authorized to speak publicly. The Clippers’ efforts to pick him up were warmly supported by coach Tyronn Lue, who coached Irving in Cleveland during the highlight of the guard’s career, the 2016 Cavaliers’ championship run.

The NBA’s trading deadline is Thursday, and most deals are taking up to the last few hours to execute — but there’s a belief the Nets could be motivated to make a decision on Irving soon. Nets and Clippers front offices have already worked together as trading partners in 2020.

Other teams said to be pursuing trades for Irving include the Lakers and Phoenix Suns, which could get in the way of the Clippers’ championship ambitions.

This season, Irving has played 40 games for Brooklyn, averaging 27.1 points and 5.3 assists on 48% shooting while contributing to his litany of off-court headlines and controversy since joining the Nets in 2019.

After missing most of the 2021-22 season by refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine, Irving asked to be traded last summer just so Brooklyn could keep him in the herd. Then the Guardian was banned for eight games this season after posting a link to a film on social media that contained anti-Semitic messages. He reportedly asked to be re-traded on Friday after disagreements with the Nets over a contract extension.

Irving has supporters with the Clippers because when he’s on the court, he’s among the NBA’s elite as a point guard, a position the team has been looking at ways to improve in the weeks leading up to the close. The Clippers have also been associated with Toronto’s Fred VanVleet and Utah’s Mike Conley, among others.

In June, after the NBA draft and after Irving’s initial trade request, Lawrence Frank, the Clippers basketball operations president, was not asked directly about Irving, but noted that the team evaluated additions while understanding “the player’s basketball character.” By nature, he said, the team’s best players are its leaders.

“Your people create your culture,” Frank said, “and yes, we look at all these things and try to study, when we put this player in the dressing room, how does that fit together?”

Irving did not play in Brooklyn’s win against Washington on Saturday, citing calf pain. Nets coach Jacque Vaughn told reporters in Brooklyn that he is closing in on Irving’s absence as the day goes on. The Clippers meet the Nets in the finals of their six-game journey on Monday.

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving drives to the basket January 19 during a game against the Phoenix Suns.

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving drives to the basket January 19 during a game against the Phoenix Suns.

(Matt York/Associated Press)

“I don’t think about it,” Clippers star Kawhi Leonard said of the team’s focus amid trade rumors. “We have to win games, we play every other day and we have good teams ahead of us. That’s how I stay focused.”

Paul George, who scored 30 points, said: “You’re not looking ahead. For us, we want to play the best basketball that comes into play [All-Star] break so that everything else or any other thoughts are kind of out of your head. Our job is to be competitive.”

Saturday’s victory showed again why the team is notoriously in talks with leading guards who are putting pressure on the defence. Despite a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter, the Clippers managed just two points in a four-minute span that cut their lead to eight. New York ended the fourth quarter on a 21-6 run to lead 115-112.

“Often we stagnated,” Leonard said. “A lot of just isolations and it just puts them on the defensive a little bit.”

After center Ivica Zubac caught the rebound from a George missed three with eight seconds left, George’s ball swung to the right corner and hit Batum’s hands with 1.7 seconds left. It left his palm six tenths later, the shot darting to force overtime.

Batum has worked in recent off-seasons to speed up the release of his shot through a drill where he tries to do 100 three-pointers in five minutes, a drill that requires him to aim and shoot right away. It played a part in a win that improved the Clippers to 30-26.

“Sometimes it’s going to get a very late pass and just catch it like I can and just throw it,” he said. “I’ve been practicing all summer. It worked tonight.”

Time will tell if their attempt to land Irving will work. Clippers have interest in acquiring Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving

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