After gaining so much momentum last week, trade talks between the Lakers and Nets appear to have slowed down. While the conversation remains open, the sense of inevitability that Kyrie Irving would be a Laker is no longer present.
Now, there’s a growing sense that Brooklyn isn’t the only option for the Lakers to opt out of Russell Westbrook’s contract.
Let’s take a look at the latest headlines and rumours.
A big part of Kyrie Irving’s appeal is that he’s the Lakers’ best option on an upgrade from Westbrook … and was once seen as perhaps the only option.
However, as free agency unfolded, perhaps predictably, other options presented themselves, as reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on NBA today on Wednesday (via Nets Daily).
Then there is the motivation of the Lakers. They looked at other offers. They continued, I know, to watch Eric Gordon in Houston. He’s definitely a player they’re interested in. Buddy Hield at Indiana … the Lakers are certainly watching the market, but there’s no doubt that Kyrie Irving is one of them.
Wojnarowski’s report confirms that of Dave McMenamin, who mentioned the same names as potential Plan B options for the Lakers should a deal for Irving not fall through.
The names are two that fans are familiar with and two that the team has been linked to for a long time. They also represent realistic options as the Pacers have already offloaded Malcolm Brogdon and could soon do the same for Hield and the Rockets have several years to rebuild.
Discussing backup plans, however, doesn’t mean Kyrie Irving’s chances are gone.
Lakers-Nets still in discussion
Even though the Lakers are considering Plan B, Plan A remains Kyrie and conversations with the Nets remain open, as Wojnarowski also reported on Wednesday (again via Nets Daily).
“I think that’s another consideration Brooklyn has to make about whether it’s positive or negative to move Kyrie Irving before Kevin Durant or after Kevin Durant. The market is definitely a lot different for Kevin Durant than it is for Kyrie Irving.
“The Nets have spoken with the Lakers and I believe there’s been some back and forth, some communication. You look at where there’s cap space right now and a team like San Antonio could be a facilitator in this moment in, say, a Russell Westbrook deal for Kyrie Irving between the teams. They have the cap space. Now you have to incentivize them at a pretty high level and I think it’s the Lakers will to incentivize a deal with multiple draft picks. I think that’s part of the reason the deal hasn’t gone through yet.
“That could always change. Rob Pelinka and Sean Marks are in Vegas this week and moving forward. I’m sure they’ll have conversations there, but I think that’s part of the equation for Brooklyn is again, is that… do they handle the Kevin Durant deal first and then re-examine that ?
It looks like things are on hold until Summer League, when teams and the front office can have face-to-face meetings that could lead to more stuff. But until then, it looks like the talks are largely on hold, barring some sort of unexpected breakthrough.
Even then, the Lakers remain the favorites not just because they’re one of the only teams interested, but because Kyrie wants to stay in Los Angeles long term.
Kyrie wants LA
Perhaps the aspect of these negotiations that hasn’t been discussed enough is the fact that Kyrie wants to be in Los Angeles. Given that this is an expiring contract, this will factor into any other team that trades for him and is almost certainly a reason why no other team has really emerged as a contender.
On Wednesday, after Wojnarowski reported on NBA today, McMenamin added that Irving had “given signals” that he was focused on getting to Southern California.
If Irving is focused on Los Angeles, giving up assets for a lease is already enough. And when that player is Kyrie, it’s all kinds of “No!” of other teams.
For the Lakers, the only reason it’s intriguing is the seriousness of the situation with Westbrook. No one else has the type of situation that makes the Lakers their best, and perhaps only, option. It’s also why the Lakers say they may have back-up plans carry some weight and why the Nets’ bluff carries little weight.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed at itunes, Spotify, embroiderer Where Google Podcasts. You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.