Kyrie Irving at the Lakers?
Is this some kind of joke?
The madness of NBA draft week began early Monday with rumors that the enigmatic Brooklyn Nets guard and the Lakers had a mutual interest in adding Irving to LeBron James and Anthony Davis in creating another super crew.
It would be super weird, super chaotic, and super stupid.
The Lakers need Irving like they need another fragile body. The Lakers need Irving like they need another bad actor. The Lakers need Irving like they need another Russell Westbrook.
Irving is one of the best players in the league…when he’s playing. He’s one of the best performers in the league…when he’s not giving up. He can be a veteran leader… when he’s not acting like a kid.
He had the game-winning shot in Game 7 to win the NBA championship for Cleveland in 2016. But then he asked for a trade because he didn’t want to share the court with James.
He was traded to the Boston Celtics. Before his second season with them, he publicly announced that he wanted to re-sign with the team. Then, months later, he raced to Brooklyn to team up with Kevin Durant, and on subsequent returns to Boston, he stomped on the Celtics midfielder’s logo and booed Boston fans.
He and Durant were supposed to lead the Nets to an NBA championship. But in three seasons, Irving has played just 103 of a possible 226 games as the Nets have won just one playoff series and been swept twice.
Irving missed games because he refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine even though he knew it meant New York City laws wouldn’t allow him on his field. Irving missed games because he said he was protesting the Jan. 6, 2021, uprising. He missed games due to various injuries.
Not only did he miss games, but he once pressured other players to miss games as he was the loudest voice for veterans opposing the resumption of the 2020 NBA season in the Orlando area bubble. It was finally shouted out by the likes of James, and the Lakers finally won their 17th title.
Irving is only 30, but sometimes he looks and sounds as gritty as the “Uncle Drew” character he’s portrayed in commercials and a movie.
His career path has been so wildly eccentric, perhaps the most motivating resume entry is his famous public belief that the Earth is flat.
The Lakers have to ask themselves: is this a player who can not only transform a low-level team into a championship contender over the next two years, but also lead it into the next era after James’ retirement?
Then they have to realize that the answer is a resounding no.
Unless Irving is willing to opt out of his Nets contract, become a free agent, and take a historically large pay cut to come here for a year, a mid-level exception that would cut his salary by at least $25 million, the only way he can join the Lakers is through a trade.
That trade would require shipping off Westbrook — which is good — but also first-round draft picks in 2027 and 2029, which is bad.
Those draft picks are the only assets the Lakers have in hopes of luring hapless future stars to their team. Hello Luka Doncic?
If the Lakers are going to give up on those picks, it better be a young star who can either guarantee them a title right now or really carry them into the future. It’s not Irving.
All of this rumble about Irving and the Lakers has no doubt been made public because Irving is looking to get the Nets to sign him to the maximum four-year, $190 million contract. If you believe this is happening, then you believe the Earth is flat.
Right now, Irving is seen as one of the most misguided players in all of professional sports, and that’s saying something.
While walking around the Nets in January 2021 because he was so troubled by the insurgency, he was filmed at a party.
Although he missed many games last season due to the vaccine mandate, he appears to be taunting his teammates by showing up in the stands.
The Lakers don’t need that. Their new coach, Darvin Ham, doesn’t need that. Their disillusioned fans don’t need that.
They don’t have a champion team as it is, but Irving isn’t going to change that in the short term and his presence would cause irreparable harm in the long run.
As written in this space before, unless they’re willing to trade James and start from scratch, they’re going to have to endure several years of mediocrity, and there’s nothing Irving can do about it.
Several times over the past two seasons, Lakers fans have wondered, often out loud, in all sorts of public forums, “Can it get any worse?”
Acquire Kyrie Irving and find out.