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Kyrie Irving to the Lakers? A look at LeBron reunion options

Watching the Golden State Warriors celebrate their new-found NBA championship, the Los Angeles Lakers face a big question during the busiest part of their offseason.

“Any chance that we could be next summer?”

With limited draft assets, no room for salary caps, and a roster full of empty spots, getting back to a championship takes some big steps.

Well that would be a big deal.

Early Monday, the Athletic reported that Brooklyn guard Kyrie Irving and the Nets were at a “dead end” in contract negotiations, opening the door to Irving looking for a new team.

Among those suitors, the Lakers and a LeBron James reunion might make the most sense.

Here is a brief introduction to the situation:

What’s new

Irving has the option to become a free agent this summer if he turns down a nearly $37 million player option to return to the Nets for the final year of his contract. Talks about an extension with the Nets have stalled. This opens the door for Irving to find a new home.

After joining the Nets ahead of the 2019 season, Irving only played 103 games due to injuries, vaccination requirements and personal issues. Brooklyn won just one of their three playoff series but lost to eventual champion Milwaukee in seven games, with Irving injured in the finals.

Despite the injuries and other distractions, Irving is still one of the most talented players in the NBA, a guard capable of shooting efficiently from any spot on the court regardless of the difficulty.

He turned 30 in March.

What could the Lakers trade?

There are ways Irving could end up with the Lakers without a trade that would require the kind of financial sacrifices unprecedented in the NBA and leave more than $20 million on the table to move west. It is not impossible in the strict definitions of the word.

A more realistic approach would be a trade. And thankfully, Russell Westbrook’s expiring contract with the Lakers is practically a match.

The best deal the Lakers can make in this trade — and any deal really — would be this contract, plus first-round picks in 2027 and 2029. Sign-and-trade deals aren’t options because of the cap implications , which means that Irving would have to register with the Nets first.

When you’re talking to executives in the league, it’s always scary to act that far into the future, regardless of what you get back. So much can change in one season, let alone five seasons. These picks functionally represent the last few dollars in a bank account. If you spend them now, you’ll have to wait a while before trading again.

That means whenever the next star is upset and wants to move, the Lakers have even less time to move.

The Nets could then use Westbrook’s contract and those picks — plus additional sweeteners the Lakers don’t have — to get key role players to pair with Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons. Perhaps a three-team exchange could be orchestrated, although generally the more teams involved, the more complicated the conversations become.

What are Irving’s other options?

The New York Knicks would certainly be an option – people assumed Irving and Kevin Durant were headed there before settling on Brooklyn. The Clippers originally owned the pick that Cleveland used to pick Irving No. 1 overall and they could certainly use a star point guard. However, the Clippers have already built a strong culture and are likely to take fewer risks than the Knicks or Lakers. The same is probably true of Miami, although their culture is characterized by allowing players to be themselves.

Irving’s best option might simply be to stay in Brooklyn with Durant.

But Irving’s landing with the Lakers is not impossible. James has tweeted praise for Irving since the Lakers season ended. Imagining how it could and would work is easier when Irving tries to get off the nets.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/lakers/story/2022-06-20/los-angeles-lakers-clippers-nets-kyrie-irving-free-agency Kyrie Irving to the Lakers? A look at LeBron reunion options

Emma Bowman

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