Kyrie Irving still in the Lakers' picture to rejoin LeBron James

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Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) runs up the court during the first half of Game 4 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics, Monday, April 25, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Kyrie Irving averaged 27.4 points, 5.8 assists and 4.4 rebounds while shooting 49.6% from the field and 41.8% from long range last season in 29 regular-season games. (John Minchillo / Associated Press)

The opening minutes of NBA free agency began like an unkinked hose, transactions spraying everywhere as soon as the 3 p.m. PDT start Thursday arrived.

While the Lakers would soon be involved, signing four new players to the team, rumors of reengaged trade talks with the Brooklyn Nets clearly became the dominant way the organization could be reshaped.

Talks about trading for All-Star guard Kyrie Irving reignited Thursday, according to sources familiar with the matter not authorized to speak publicly. Irving opted into the final year of his deal Monday.

“Normal people keep the world going, but those who dare to be different lead us into tomorrow," Irving cryptically told The Athletic that day. "I've made my decision to opt in. See you in the fall. A11even."

It became clear that any fall sightings probably wouldn’t be with the Nets — the Lakers in the commanding lead to acquire Irving should they choose to try to trade Russell Westbrook in a deal.

Brooklyn star forward Kevin Durant informed team ownership that he’d like to be traded, sources confirmed, signaling a disastrous end to an era that showed so much promise after Irving and Durant chose the Nets in free agency in 2019. The team, besieged by injuries and Irving’s refusal to get vaccinated, never made it past the second round of the postseason despite adding James Harden during the 2020-21 season.

The team was swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round of this year's playoffs.

The Lakers, despite some initial speculation, are not seen as a viable destination for Durant, who is sure to command a massive trade package.

Durant’s desire to leave gave the Lakers a second chance to acquire Irving, a seven-time All-Star, with the team’s two biggest stars in favor of the move. LeBron James has already won with Irving in Cleveland, and Anthony Davis, a tight James ally, is supportive, according to people familiar with the situation.

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving acknowledges fans after a game against the Orlando Magic in March.
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving acknowledges fans after a game against the Orlando Magic in March. (Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated Press)

The Lakers, though, need to weigh what they consider is appropriate compensation for a player in the final year of a contract with reliability and durability issues. The team previously balked at adding future first-round draft picks in Irving discussions, and without much league-wide interest in Irving, it’s hard to know what his actual value is and how urgent the Lakers need to act.

It’s also unknown if and how the Lakers could pursue a third team to aid in the transaction should Brooklyn prefer not to acquire Westbrook.

An easier decision Thursday, though, was to get younger and more athletic — an obvious route after last season's older, plodding team failed to make the play-in tournament.

 

The Lakers added a trio of former first-round draft picks in the first hour of free agency by getting deals done with Lonnie Walker IV, Troy Brown Jr. and Damian Jones on Thursday afternoonbefore snapping up Juan Toscano-Anderson from the NBA champion Warriors later in the day.

Spurs guard Lonnie Walker IV runs back on defense.
Lonnie Walker IV averaged 12.1 points last season for the Spurs while shooting 40.7% from the field and 31.4% from three-point range in five attempts per game. (David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

Walker will sign a one-year deal worth approximately $6.5 million, a person not authorized to speak publicly on the matter told The Times. It’s the biggest free-agency deal the team could offer this season — the taxpayer mid-level exception.

The No. 18 pick in 2018, Walker is a 6-foot-4 guard who started 56 games in four seasons in San Antonio. He averaged 12.1 points while shooting 40.7% from the field and 31.4% from three-point range in five attempts per game. He turns 24 in December.

Brown, who was the No. 15 pick in 2018 after starring at Oregon, will play for the Lakers on a minimum deal following stints in Washington and Chicago. He played 66 games last season, all but seven off the bench, and averaged 4.3 points in 16 minutes.

Jones, the 30th pick in 2016 by Golden State, spent eight games with the Lakers in 2021, starting six. After his 10-day contracts expired with the team, he signed with Sacramento, where he played last season as well.

Jones, who averaged 8.1 points and 4.4 rebounds last season, will sign a two-year minimum contract with a player option for next season. He turned 27 on Thursday.

Toscano-Anderson was a part of the Golden State Warriors championship team, playing in 73 games last season. He averaged 4.1 points and 2.4 rebounds in 13.6 minutes and shot 48.9% from the field and 32.2% from three-point range.

At 29, he gives the Lakers more youth and he’s known for his good defense, making him a 3-and-D player the team coveted.

Former Lakers guard Malik Monk will sign a two-year contract with the Sacramento Kings, sources informed of the deal unauthorized to speak about it publicly said. The contract is expected to be worth nearly $20 million, more than the Lakers could’ve offered under salary-cap rules.

As of Thursday night, the Lakers have 13 players under contract, not counting a pair of two-way signees from draft night. Rosters cap at 15, though the Lakers could create a spot by releasing Wenyen Gabriel, whose deal isn’t fully guaranteed.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.