Lakers chances to land Kyrie Irving lessen with his opt-in

Kyrie Irving will exercise his option for the final year of his contract with the Brooklyn Nets, largely ending speculation that he would join LeBron James with the Lakers.

Signals were sent last month about Irving’s interest in leaving the Nets for the Lakers after talks failed to materialize a long-term contract extension with Brooklyn, sources said.

The notion that Irving would play for the mid-level taxpayer exception, a deal worth $30 million less than what he settled on Monday, has been circulated time and time again in NBA circles.

While there was always skepticism about Irving’s ability to actually keep that money on the table, there was a shared interest between Irving and the Lakers in forging a partnership.

The idea gained momentum within the organization. Lakers stars James and Anthony Davis have both spoken to Irving. The team leaders seriously considered taking on Irving. And the conversation, which might initially have been viewed as leverage, had only grown louder as the rift between Irving and the Nets widened.

The clearest path to acquiring Irving would have required significant financial sacrifices from the seven-time All-Star, who could turn down his options and then sign on free-hand with the Lakers. The team is currently able to offer the mid-level taxpayer exemption to a free agent, which is estimated at around $6 million per season.

If so, the Lakers would have had to make room for salary caps next offseason in order to sign Irving to a more lucrative contract.

It was not discounted in part because of Irving’s unpredictability.

While that scenario isn’t impossible, it became increasingly unlikely as the deadline for Irving to move in or out of his contract neared. Irving decided to stay with the Nets when he opted to do so on Monday.

“Ordinary people make the world run, but those who dare to be different lead us into tomorrow. I’ve made my decision to sign up. See you in the autumn,” he told The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

Irving could still be traded to the Lakers, although their hold on the deal is likely gone once the threat of Irving fully signing with them is gone.

Kyrie Irving looks at the scoreboard during a game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Cleveland Cavaliers in April.

Kyrie Irving looks at the scoreboard during a game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Cleveland Cavaliers in April.

(Seth Little / Associated Press)

A sign-and-trade deal, a transaction where a free agent signs with their current team and then is sold to another club, would not have worked due to the strict salary cap for teams acquiring players in this way.

However, the path for the Lakers, as well as 28 other teams, to acquire Irving via trade remains through his one-year contract.

As of Monday morning, it was still believed that an agreement could be reached with Irving and the Nets. However, the “how” was largely out of the Lakers’ control — provided they eventually put their limited future draft picks into play.

That might end up being needed to sweeten any trade in Russell Westbrook’s extra-large expiring contract, the main reason a third-team would strike a deal.

The situation is considered complicated even by NBA standards. In general, the more teams involved, the more complicated it is to execute a transaction.

Irving is a member of the Nets for the time being and is expected to remain so until the end of his contract after the upcoming season.

When it comes to Irving, “for now” is just as important as anything. Lakers chances to land Kyrie Irving lessen with his opt-in

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