Lakers Notes: Irving, LeBron, Russell, Reaves, Lineup

Mavericks star guard Kyrie Irving had interest in reuniting with LeBron James in either Dallas or Los Angeles over the offseason, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. Irving said as much to James before the Lakers‘ first-round Game 6 against the Grizzlies last year.

As detailed by Shelburne, the Lakers had internal discussions about whether to pursue Irving via trade or free agency last year and had called the Nets several times since June 2022, when Irving and the Nets didn’t come to terms on a contract extension. James was open to the idea of pairing up again with Irving, but didn’t want to push anything while the franchise was still recovering from the Russell Westbrook experiment, Shelburne writes.

The Mavericks held Irving’s Bird Rights and were determined to keep him and Luka Doncic together, re-signing him to a three-year, $126MM deal. After bringing back Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura and signing the likes of Taurean Prince, Gabe Vincent and Cam Reddish, there was internal debate about whether or not the Lakers had the speed to keep up with the top guards of the Western Conference, but they decided it wasn’t a concern to address at the time, according to Shelburne.

Flash forward several months and Irving has avoided any off-court incidents that plagued him in Brooklyn while James and Anthony Davis are enjoying a healthy season at the top of their game. However, the Lakers lack consistent point guard play. The Mavericks sit at 24-18 and seventh in the west entering Thursday while the Lakers are 21-21, and 10th in the standings.

With the trade deadline approaching, the Lakers have roster questions to sort out to help alleviate some of the burden for James and Davis moving forward, Shelburne writes.

It’s just too much on Bron right now,” one rival player whose team recently defeated the Lakers said. “Everyone is just going to pack the paint and try to frustrate him because they need a lot. Speed. Play-making. Shooting.

We have more from the Lakers:

  • The Lakers recently turned back to their opening-night starting five for the foreseeable future after coach Darvin Ham experimented with lineups through the first half of the season. That means Reaves and D’Angelo Russell are once again starting next to each other, and the team is hoping that duo can be a catalyst for future success, Khobi Price of The Orange County Register writes. While Reaves and Russell have complementary skill sets, Price writes the defense needs some cleaning up if the Lakers want to start stacking wins.
  • That lineup is helping the Lakers reach a new offensive ceiling, according to Jovan Buha of The Athletic. After beating the Mavericks on Wednesday, Los Angeles has won four of its last six games after dropping 10 of its previous 13. Buha writes the ball movement and aggression were elements of L.A.’s offense that stood out in that game. The Lakers also boast an improved offensive rating since making the switch back to their original starting five. “We’re just moving the basketball,” Davis said. “Trying to play the right way. When we share the basketball, good things tend to happen.
  • When asked if his team needs to make trades before the deadline, James said he doesn’t “play fantasy basketball,” tweets ESPN’s David McMenamin. “It’s too disrespectful to think about what we need or what we don’t have,” James said. “I don’t do that to my teammates. We’ve been putting in the work and that’s what we’ve got to continue to do.
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