Lakers weighing options after Kyrie Irving demands trade from the Nets

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Nets guard Kyrie Irving has asked the team to trade him by the NBA's Feb. 9 deadline. (Mary Altaffer / Associated Press)

All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving wants out of Brooklyn, and like last summer the Lakers are among the favorites if the Nets decide to honor his trade request.

According to people with knowledge of the situation who were not authorized to discuss it publicly, the Lakers are interested in Irving, LeBron James’ former teammate with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

In addition to the Lakers, the Dallas Mavericks, the Phoenix Suns and the Miami Heat are possible trade partners with the Nets, according to multiple people. Irving, who makes $36.5 million, has been unable to reach a contract extension with the Nets and is set to be a free agent at the end of the season.

Rumors circulated last offseason that Irving’s desire was to play with the Lakers before he opted in to his contract with Brooklyn. The Lakers had their concerns, including committing significant salary and multiple years on a contract to a player who hasn’t always been reliable.

Irving’s time with the Nets has been fraught with controversy and roster turnover. Irving missed most of last season when he wasn’t allowed to play in Brooklyn for declining to get the COVID-19 vaccine. He was suspended this season, missing eight games after posting a link to a movie with antisemitic messages.

He later expressed regret before returning to the court.

“I just want to apologize deeply for all my actions throughout the time that it’s been since the post was first put up," he said. "I’ve had a lot of time to think. But my focus, initially, if I could do it over, would be to heal and repair a lot of my close relationships with my Jewish relatives, brothers and sisters.”

The Nets dealt with trading for James Harden — and then sending him out to Philadelphia — and navigating Kevin Durant’s trade request this summer.

On the court, Irving’s been one of the best players at his position, averaging 27.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.3 assists. He was selected as a starter for the East in the upcoming All-Star game.

They’re currently fourth in the East with a 31-20 record.

Some people around the league believe the Suns could loom as the largest threat to the Lakers in an Irving sweepstakes.

Magic Johnson endorsed the idea of dealing for Irving on Friday.

“Personally, I’d love to see Kyrie in the purple and gold,” he wrote on Twitter.

A trade with the Nets would certainly include Russell Westbrook. The Lakers would need to take back an additional player in a trade for Irving to make the salaries match, according to NBA trade rules.

The team’s primary assets are first-round picks in 2027 and 2029. Second-year guard Austin Reaves also has fans throughout NBA front offices, as does rookie guard Max Christie.

The Lakers had Westbrook trade discussions with teams as the Thursday deadline approaches, including with the Utah Jazz. There’s skepticism that the Detroit Pistons will trade Bojan Bogdanovic, though Toronto's Gary Trent Jr. could be a floor-spacer the Lakers might pursue.

The team could also have interest in Atlanta guard Bogdan Bogdanovic as they try to add shooting. Charlotte guard Terry Rozier could also be a target.

All of this is happening at the same time James is on the cusp of breaking the NBA’s all-time scoring record. He’s 63 points away from dethroning Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Friday after the team landed in New Orleans, James tweeted the looking eyes emoji and a crown.

The Lakers play the Pelicans on Saturday having won two consecutive games with massive decisions about the future of this team — and the organization as a whole — looming.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.