Kyrie Irving

Lakers Came Close To Trading Russell Westbrook To Pacers

Russell Westbrook remains on the Lakers‘ roster, but only after the front office gave strong consideration to a blockbuster deal with the Pacers, according to Shams Charania, Sam Amick and Jovan Buha of The Athletic.

L.A.’s top decision-makers, including vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka, owner Jeanie Buss and senior basketball adviser Kurt Rambis, had in-depth talks about dealing Westbrook and the team’s unprotected first-round picks in 2027 and 2029 to Indiana in exchange for Myles Turner and Buddy Hield, sources tell the authors.

Although rumors about the potential deal were leaked throughout the summer, The Athletic report offers insights into how close it came to actually happening.

The views of new head coach Darvin Ham, along with executives Joey and Jesse Buss were given plenty of weight as the Lakers considered how to proceed, according to Charania, Amick and Buha. A scheduled news conference involving Pelinka and Ham was delayed as the team considered whether to move forward with the Pacers deal.

As general manager, Pelinka has been given the final authority on trades, the authors add, but it appears the Buss brothers are more involved than ever in personnel decisions. It was agreed that everyone in the room should be committed to gambling on Turner and Hield, and when that didn’t happen, Pelinka opted to take a cautious approach, holding onto Westbrook to see if his fit with the team improves under a new coach or if a better deal arises before the February trade deadline.

Westbrook has been doing what the Lakers have asked so far, sources tell Charania, Amick and Buha. He has met individually with Pelinka, Jeanie Buss and Ham and said he’s willing to accept an off-the-ball role this season. He’s also shown a willingness to adapt to Ham’s system throughout training camp, focusing more on setting screens, pushing the ball in transition and trying to set up teammates rather than looking for his own shot.

The Indiana deal was one of several trades the Lakers considered this summer, according to the authors’ sources. They also sought to acquire Kyrie Irving from the Nets and both Bojan Bogdanovic and Jordan Clarkson from the Jazz. Irving will be a free agent in July, but he’s not currently in the Lakers’ plans, the authors add.

In addition, several versions of the Pacers trade were discussed. One involved Westbrook and one of the first-rounders for Turner, while others focused on Hield. Formal talks between the teams began after Summer League, the authors’ sources said, and the Lakers’ initial offer was Westbrook, one first-round pick and a second-rounder for Turner and Hield. There were also discussions about including a third team, possibly the Grizzlies, but the Pacers were firm in their stance that they wouldn’t agree to a deal unless they got both Lakers’ first-round picks in return.

The contract status of Turner and Hield may have pushed the Lakers to their final decision, the authors add. Turner is headed for free agency next summer and may be able to command $25MM per year in his next contract. With LeBron James and Anthony Davis already on the roster, L.A. was reluctant to have its three highest-paid players in the front court when the league is becoming more perimeter-oriented, according to The Athletic sources. Hield is under contract for $21.7MM this season and $19.2MM in 2023/24 and is reportedly open to being traded.

Nets Notes: Simmons, Nash, Minutes, Irving

Nets head coach Steve Nash appreciates returning star Ben Simmons for what he can contribute and says he doesn’t mind if the 6’10” forward never develops a jumper, per Nick Friedell of ESPN.

“Very unique. That’s what makes Ben great. That’s why I don’t care if he ever shoots a jump shot for the Brooklyn Nets,” Nash said. “He’s welcome to, but that is not what makes him special and not what we need. He’s a great complement to our team, and he’s an incredible basketball player because of his versatility.”

Nash is especially excited to see how Simmons meshes with Nets stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving this season, as Friedell relays.

“I think they’ll have a certain element of cohesion out of the gates,” Nash said. “Because they’re all really good basketball players, but hopefully it’s something that evolves. And they can continue to find ways to make each other better. I think that’s the beauty, that they actually fit really well together, but it may take time.”

There’s more out of Brooklyn:

  • Friedell tweets that neither Simmons nor Nash anticipate limiting the 26-year-old’s minutes to begin the 2022/23 NBA season, despite the fact that he’s coming off back surgery in the spring. Friedell notes that Nash has been happy with Simmons’ output in practice.
  • Irving has high expectations for the ceiling of his talented new teammate, Friedell writes in another ESPN story. “That level of talent, and IQ and motivation and drive — anything’s possible,” Irving said of Simmons. “He has that ‘it’ inside of him so now we just have to slowly develop him where he knows that he can just go out there and be himself. We want him to be his highest potential of himself As a player, be able to accomplish things out on the floor that he wasn’t able to do the last few years. And just have some fun being at peace around him.” Irving himself missed most of the 2021/22 season due to his reticence to get vaccinated against COVID-19 amid vaccine mandate policies for New York City employees. With those policies now relaxed, Irving and Simmons should both see plenty of run in Brooklyn.

Nets Notes: Durant, Nash, Irving, Curry, Warren, Simmons

Addressing reporters at the Nets‘ media day on Monday, Kevin Durant explained that he requested a trade this offseason because he had some “doubts” about whether the Nets were building a legitimate championship culture (Twitter link via Tania Ganguli of The New York Times).

“I wanted everybody to be held accountable for their habits as a basketball player,” Durant said, per Mark W. Sanchez of The New York Post. “I think a lot of stuff was getting swept under the rug because we’re injured or this guy’s not around or just the circumstances. I thought we could have fought through that a little bit more and focused on the guys that were here a little bit more.

“When I went out with the injury, we lost 10 in a row. And I’m like, ‘We shouldn’t be losing some of these games that we lost, regardless of who’s on the floor.’ So I was more so worried about how we’re approaching every day as a basketball team. And I felt like we could have fought through a lot of the stuff that I felt that held us back.”

Durant said he wasn’t disappointed not to be dealt and that he’s committed to the Nets going forward (Twitter links via Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic and Adam Zagoria of NJ.com). He also admitted that he wasn’t surprised to remain a Net, since general manager Sean Marks and the team’s front office set a sky-high asking price.

“I know I’m that good, that you’re just not going to give me away,” Durant said.

In his own media session, Marks said that he feels good about where things stand with Durant, adding that if the star forward “still wanted out, he wouldn’t be here” (Twitter link via Vorkunov). He also said the Nets made a legitimate effort to trade Durant, though he admitted he was fielding outside inquiries more than he was instigating discussions.

“Yeah, absolutely we made those calls and we at least picked up the phone when teams called us,” Marks told YES Network (Twitter link via Zagoria). “I gotta be honest, I wasn’t making a whole lot of outgoing calls, I mean why would you do that?”

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Steve Nash downplayed the fact that Durant reportedly called for the head coach’s job as part of his ultimatum to the Nets, likening it to a family squabble and telling reporters that he and KD got together to talk it out (Twitter link via Brian Lewis of The New York Post).
  • Kyrie Irving, who referred to Brooklyn’s summer as a “clusterf–k,” said he came close to leaving the Nets before picking up his player option, adding that he had some other options, but “not many,” Sanchez writes for The Post. Irving admitted that potential suitors had concerns about his availability and his commitment.
  • Interestingly, Irving stated that his decision to remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 cost him a lucrative long-term extension offer from the Nets during the 2021 offseason. “I gave up four years, $100-something million deciding to be unvaccinated, and that was the decision,” Irving said, per Sanchez.
  • A pair of Nets wings are still awaiting full clearance following injuries, according to Nick Friedell of ESPN (Twitter links). Seth Curry, who underwent ankle surgery in May, said today that he’s at “85-90 percent” and isn’t fully cleared to participate in camp. Meanwhile, T.J. Warren said the foot injury that cost him all of the 2021/22 season is fully healed, but he still needs to do more rehab work to get cleared by team doctors.
  • Ben Simmons is “ready to go” and will be a full participant in training camp, he said today (Twitter link via Friedell). As long as he remains healthy through the preseason, the plan is for the former No. 1 overall pick to be on the floor when the Nets’ season begins, tweets Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. Simmons also said he’s willing to play center for his new team (Twitter link via Zagoria).

Eastern Notes: Irving, Arcidiacono, Butler, Martin, Wizards

Kyrie Irving sees a silver lining in the sour way the Nets’ season ended. Irving said on the “Nets Kingdom” podcast that Brooklyn “needed” to go through the embarrassment of getting swept in the playoffs (hat tip to Kurt Helin of NBC Sports).

“It was meant to happen like that. Motivation, bro,” the Nets guard said. “We needed that humbling experience, especially going against the Celtics. It was already built to be that matchup. We’re going to see them again.”

We have more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Ryan Arcidiacono’s contract with the Knicks is a standard, non-guaranteed minimum for one year, and doesn’t include an Exhibit 10 clause, Fred Katz of The Athletic tweets. The Knicks signed the 28-year-old guard on Saturday. He appeared in 10 games with the Knicks last season.
  • A couple of scouts interviewed by Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald believe Jimmy Butler is the best option as the starting power forward for the Heat with Caleb Martin coming off the bench. However, there are concerns about Butler wearing down by playing that position.
  • The Wizards aren’t likely to sign a player to their open two-way slot until the end of training camp, Josh Robbins of The Athletic tweets.  Team officials would prefer to see how potential candidates perform in the preseason and whether there’s a better option on the waiver wire. Jordan Schakel has the other two-way spot.

Nets Notes: Durant, Championship Odds, Irving

With the dust settled (for now) on a dramatic summer full of trade and personnel demands from Nets superstar Kevin Durant, Zach Harper of The Athletic has compiled a list of the five “winners” and five “losers” following a torrid two months in Brooklyn.

Team president Sean Marks and the young players mentioned as possible centerpieces in Durant trades score high marks from Harper, while Celtics wing Jaylen Brown and Brooklyn head coach Steve Nash are among the folks involved in the rumor mill who suffered in the saga, with Nash’s long-term future with the Nets and Brown’s standing in Boston now less certain than they were at the start of the summer.

Net Income of NetsDaily penned a similar piece unpacking the winners, losers and “innocent bystanders” of the Durant chatter. Nash fares more favorably in Net Income’s appraisal.

There’s more out of Brooklyn:

  • With Durant seemingly in the fold at least to start the 2022/23 NBA season, Brooklyn’s title odds instantly improved at various sportsbooks, per Lance Pugmire of USA Today. Pugmire writes that Tipico Sportsbook projects the Nets as having the third-best odds to win the championship among Eastern Conference teams, behind only the 2022 finalist Celtics and 2021 champion Bucks.
  • Net Income of NetsDaily wonders if star Nets teammate Kyrie Irving‘s decision to opt in to the final year of his contract with Brooklyn – and a subsequent truce between Irving and the team – helped the club quell its issues with Durant for the time being.
  • In case you missed it, the Nets are considering free agent big men Markieff Morris and Tristan Thompson as possibilities to shore up their frontcourt.

Kevin Durant Notes: Reactions, Next Steps, More

While the Nets confirmed on Tuesday that Kevin Durant is officially off the trade market, some rival executives remain skeptical about just how hard the team tried to move him this summer, as Steve Bulpett of Heavy.com writes.

“What Brooklyn was asking for was ridiculous,” one executive involved in the process told Bulpett. “They knew it. We knew it.”

If the Nets’ intention all along was to hang onto Durant by setting an asking price that no team would be willing to meet, the situation played out exactly as they hoped. But even if they genuinely attempted to move him following his June 30 trade request, another league executive was impressed by how they handled the saga, Bulpett writes.

“Brooklyn just said, ‘Enough of this s–t.’ And good for them,” the exec told Heavy.com. “This should be a blueprint for every team that goes through something like this. … It’s important to maintain good relationships and loyalty and all that with your players, but if the player is doing something that’s hurting the team — hurting the business — then you have to stand your ground and remember how you got the money to buy the team in the first place.”

One league source who spoke to Bulpett suggested that Nets owner Joe Tsai was determined to reclaim control of the franchise after having all but ceded that control to Durant and Kyrie Irving for a few years when they signed with the team in 2019.

“He gave them the keys to the Ferrari and they took it out and they wrecked it — and he decided he wasn’t going to give them another set of keys,” that source said. “The statement he made on Twitter? That was Joe Tsai saying that he was going to be the one who decides who drives, and it isn’t going to be them.”

Here are several more items on Durant and the Nets:

  • The Nets and Durant can talk about moving forward with their partnership all they want, but the foundation in Brooklyn has been fractured, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, who says the team is under pressure to win in 2022/23 or risk finding itself in a similar situation next offseason.
  • The Durant drama helped mask other major questions facing the Nets, including what they can realistically expect from Irving and Ben Simmons in ’22/23 after the two stars essentially had lost seasons in ’21/22, writes Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports.
  • A handful of ESPN’s analysts, including Tim Bontemps and Bobby Marks, explore where Durant and the Nets go from here and make predictions about how long Durant and Irving will remain in Brooklyn and where the team currently stands in the East’s pecking order.
  • In a YouTube video, ESPN’s Bobby Marks says one of his main takeaways from the Durant saga is that it’s OK for players to request trades and for teams ultimately not to grant those requests, suggesting that major changes to the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement shouldn’t be necessary.
  • What exactly does Durant want? That question seems harder than ever to answer in the wake of this offseason’s drama, according to Chris Herring of SI.com, who says it’s unclear whether KD’s top priority is to win championships or to have things completely on his terms.
  • In a column for The New York Post, Mike Vaccaro paints the Nets’ leadership group in an unflattering light and refers to the last couple months in Brooklyn as “the most laughable basketball saga we’ve ever seen.”

Lakers Notes: Durant, Westbrook, James, Closing Unit

With the Nets’ statement that they and Kevin Durant intend to “move forward” with their partnership, the Lakers’ approach regarding Russell Westbrook actually becomes clearer, according to Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times.

Now that a potential Kyrie Irving trade involving Westbrook is presumably off the table, the Lakers are free to explore alternatives, Woike explains. It could facilitate their decision regarding whether they’ll ride with Westbrook in the upcoming season or deal him to another potential suitor.

We have more on the Lakers:

  • LeBron James‘ decision to sign a two-year extension this summer shows that winning another title is no longer his primary goal, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on SportsCenter (video link). Instead, it shows he’s content to stay put, even though the Lakers haven’t made a major move this summer, and he’s also intent on eventually playing with his son Bronny. “With this decision by LeBron, you really see his two biggest priorities — priority one is being a Los Angeles Laker, priority two is leaving the door open to play with his son in two years,” Windhorst said. “Winning championships is still high on that list but it seems like it’s a little bit more in third position.”
  • Assuming the Lakers don’t bring in another major piece, what kind of lineups could they construct to produce the best results? Jovan Buha of The Athletic explores this topic, including his suggestion of the best “closing unit” on the roster — a group that includes James, Anthony Davis, Troy Brown Jr., Juan Toscano-Anderson and Austin Reaves.
  • The Lakers reportedly have some interest in bringing back Dennis Schröder. Get the details here.

Nets Reportedly Intend To Keep Kyrie Irving

The Nets are making it clear to rival teams that they intend to keep Kyrie Irving, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who writes that Irving has been “working out with teammates and holding constructive dialogue with the organization” this summer.

Brooklyn reportedly granted Irving permission to explore trade scenarios at the end of June, but only the Lakers were said to be seriously interested in the point guard, who ultimately chose to pick up his $36.9MM player option for 2022/23.

Recent reports from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein indicated that the Lakers are willing to include both their 2027 and 2029 first-round picks to acquire Irving, but that would involve Russell Westbrook heading to Brooklyn, and the Nets are said to be uninterested in that scenario.

Assuming Kevin Durant remains on the roster into the season, a reunion between Irving and the Nets always made the most sense, as the 30-year-old’s value is at an all-time low and the only realistic pathway to rebuilding it is to have a good season with less off-court drama. The seven-time All-Star only appeared in 29 of Brooklyn’s 82 games last season due to his refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but that seems unlikely to be an issue next season, as the New York City mandate was lifted in the spring and there are no plans for a league-wide mandate.

Despite his inconsistent availability and unpredictable personality, Irving has been undeniably effective and productive when on the court, averaging 27.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 5.8 APG and 1.4 SPG on .469/.418/.915 shooting during the ’21/22 regular season (37.6 MPG). Matching that level of production for a team that hopes to contend for a title would be nearly impossible for the Nets, given the relative lack of interest in Irving’s services.

As Stein wrote last week, it’s possible Brooklyn’s stance regarding Irving could change if Durant ends up being dealt, but considering Irving is said to be the primary reason Durant joined the Nets, trading his friend away would seemingly only embolden Durant to make further demands.

Latest On Kyrie Irving, Lakers

Echoing an Adrian Wojnarowski report from earlier this week, Marc Stein confirms in his latest Substack article that the Lakers have assured LeBron James they’re willing to give up their 2027 and 2029 first-round picks in a trade that can help make the team a legitimate contender again.

Because they traded their 2024 first-round pick to New Orleans and gave the Pelicans the option to defer that pick to 2025, the Lakers are ineligible to trade a first-rounder earlier than 2027 due to the Stepien rule, which prohibits teams from leaving themselves without a first-round pick in consecutive future drafts.

However, L.A. could move its 2027 and 2029 picks without violating that rule, and Stein is the second reporter this week to suggest the club would be willing to surrender both those first-rounders in a trade for Nets guard Kyrie Irving. The seven-time All-Star is believed to be at or near the top of James’ wish list, with one report indicating that LeBron was “privately adamant” prior to signing his extension about wanting the Lakers to trade for his former teammate.

Crucially, Stein notes that it’s unclear whether or not the Lakers would insist on protecting those two first-round picks — that’s an important factor, since obviously a pair of lottery-protected first-rounders wouldn’t be nearly as valuable as two unprotected selections.

In any case, the Nets have thus far “steadfastly rejected” the concept of an Irving/Russell Westbrook swap that involves them acquire those two Lakers’ first-rounders, according to Stein, who says that Brooklyn apparently remains focused on acquiring win-now assets in any Kyrie trade.

While it’s possible that position eventually changes, especially if the Nets end up moving Kevin Durant, it appears for now that any trade sending Irving to L.A. would require a third team to take Westbrook and those draft picks and send win-now pieces to Brooklyn, Stein writes.

The Nets’ aversion to a Westbrook/Irving deal may also be linked to their desire to simply keep their current roster intact, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst suggested during an appearance on Get Up on Thursday (video link). Even though Kyrie seriously explored finding a new home before exercising his player option and Durant has demanded a trade, Brooklyn hasn’t shown any urgency to break up its core.

“I think Kyrie is invested in being a Brooklyn Net next year,” Windhorst said. “Obviously there was some turmoil with his contract extension not happening. He realizes his best path going forward to get the contract he wants in Brooklyn or elsewhere is to have a very good season. From what I can gather, it appears that he and the Nets are looking forward to meeting up in training camp.

“Now, whether Kevin Durant is there and his level of buy-in, that’s the big question,” Windhorst continued. “But right now, I think the Nets want to run this team back, and they’re hoping that Kevin Durant agrees. The way that they’re conducting trade talks and the prices that they are asking has teams out there thinking they don’t really want to trade Kevin Durant anyway, they want to bring this team back. We’ll see if Durant goes along with that, come training camp.”

Pacific Notes: Wiggins, Westbrook, Kyrie, LeBron

Fresh off his first NBA title and All-Star selection in 2021/22, Warriors starting small forward Andrew Wiggins is hoping to prove his mettle as one of the NBA’s best defensive players, as he told Vince Carter on the retired eight-time All-Star’s podcast, The VC Show with Vince Carter (h/t to Andrei de Guzman of TalkBasket).

“One thing I’m really gonna strive for this upcoming season is being on the [All-]Defensive Team,” Wiggins said. “That’s a big goal of mine, and hopefully I opened some eyes in the playoffs and I can be on the radar. I ain’t get not one vote this year! I took it personal in the playoffs!”

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • With Lakers All-Star forward LeBron James newly signed to a lucrative extension that will at least keep him in Los Angeles through 2024, it’s possible that L.A. will be more receptive to including draft capital in a trade to get off the contract of embattled point guard Russell Westbrook, opines Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report. Pincus suspects that Westbrook could be moved to the Nets, Pacers or Spurs, should the Lakers indeed be willing to part with their 2027 and 2029 first-round draft picks. Pincus notes that the Jazz also have the assets to possibly pique the interest of the Lakers’ front office in a deal. During his first season with his hometown team, the 33-year-old veteran proved to be an awkward on-court fit alongside James as a ball-dominant guard without a jump shot or much defensive effort.
  • Prior to his inking the aforementioned extension with the Lakers, James was “privately adamant” about wanting the Lakers trade for his former Cavaliers teammate Kyrie Irving, writes Jovan Buha of The Athletic. Whether such a transaction for the seven-time All-Star, currently with the Nets, comes to pass remains to be seen.
  • The new two-year, $97.1MM contract extension James signed with the Lakers can benefit both James and Los Angeles, opines Dave McMenamin of ESPN (YouTube video link). By opting to commit to the Lakers at this juncture (the extension could have been signed as late as next summer), James has given the team the green light to make moves around him in order to hopefully resume deep playoff runs. In turn, the 17-time championship-winning Lakers want to showcase themselves as a desirable landing place for marquee free agents in the years to come. McMenamin adds that, should L.A. prove unable to compete at a championship level within the next two seasons, James is able to retain some of his future flexibility to an extent by making the second year of the deal, the 2024/25 season, a player option.