Lakers can’t win with Russell Westbrook. They need Kyrie Irving

There’s nothing complicated about that.

If the Lakers can acquire Kyrie Irving, they should.

Why is this even a debate?

Never mind that Irving has a long injury history and is notoriously unreliable. Forget he can ruin a team’s plans, as the Boston Celtics learned and the Brooklyn Nets are now learning.

Irving would be a gift.

He’s still a top-10 player when he’s healthy, and the Lakers don’t have the luxury of turning down a talent of his caliber, no matter how crazy he might be.

The plan for renewed glory shared by new manager Darvin Ham hinges on the cement-headed Russell Westbrook learning to play off the ball and getting involved in defence, which sounds about as realistic as my plans next week to retire after winning the Powerball jackpot.

There’s no way the Lakers can win with Westbrook. Irving might. That’s pretty much the point.

The Lakers, built around 37-year-old LeBron James, are in win-now mode but with a can’t-win roster. If general manager Rob Pelinka passes an open shot for Irving, his next two calls might as well be to trade James and Anthony Davis.

Whether the opportunity presents itself is another question, as Irving’s alleged interest in the Lakers could very well be a ploy to lure the Brooklyn Nets into a more lucrative renewal offer.

Then again, when it comes to the unofficial spokesman for the Flat Earth Society, who really knows what he’s thinking?

Perhaps his compulsion to emphasize his individuality by taking extreme and unorthodox positions will lead him to do the unthinkable: turn down his $37 million option with the Nets and accept a $6 million option with the Lakers. Sign mid-level release.

In that case, the Lakers wouldn’t have to find a place to dump Westbrook and could just release him.

Lakers guard Russell Westbrook falls in court March 31 against the Utah Jazz.

Lakers guard Russell Westbrook falls in court March 31 against the Utah Jazz.

(Rick Bowmer/Associated Press)

While Irving has previously sacrificed money to defend his misguided principles — his refusal to vaccinate cost him roughly $17 million in lost wages last season — the more likely scenario is that the Lakers find a team making a three-way trade with the Nets.

A deal would almost certainly require the Lakers to pin their next two first-round draft picks to Westbrook in 2027 and 2029.

But what other options do they have?

They are the Lakers. Their fans don’t accept reconstruction projects and they certainly won’t accept a reconstruction project that starts in five years.

This is more about where the Lakers are than Irving.

Irving forced his way out of Cleveland after winning a championship with the Cavaliers. He vowed his long-term allegiance to the Boston Celtics only to leave to play alongside Kevin Durant in the Nets. And now this.

Between missing games because of his vaccination status, a Jan. 6 riot protest and a spate of injuries, Irving has averaged just 34 games per season in his three years with the Nets.

Those would be legitimate reasons to pass it on – for a team like the Clippers.

The Clippers have a foundation. They should be contenders if they’re healthy. You have something to lose.

The Lakers don’t.

They’ve compounded their mistakes over the years, one desperate move leading to the next. That process stranded them in a nuclear disaster zone of their own making, and their list now looks like the result of a failed experiment conducted in a Soviet-era lab.

If there’s any reason for the Lakers to be optimistic in these saddest of times, it’s that their awkward front office has had the choice taken out of their hands, at least as far as Irving is concerned.

There is no choice. You must do this.

Of course, even if Irving magically lands on their list like James and Davis did before, many of their problems will remain. You still won’t have depth. James has yet to reverse the effects of age. Davis still needs to stay healthy.

But they will have taken a step, and at that point a step in either direction counts as a step forward.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/lakers/story/2022-06-24/kyrie-irving-russell-westbrook-lakers-lebron-james Lakers can’t win with Russell Westbrook. They need Kyrie Irving

Emma Bowman

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