Russell Westbrook

Latest On Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving

Kevin Durant‘s trade request increases the chances of a Kyrie Irving trade to the Lakers, Jovan Buha and Sam Amick of The Athletic report.

A straight Irving for Russell Westbrook swap would not work financially, so the Nets would either have to add another contract or include a third — and perhaps fourth team — for salary-matching purposes. Irving would be a better fit for LeBron James and Anthony Davis than Westbrook, providing better spacing offensively.

A potential deal could also lead the Lakers to part with first-rounders in 2027 or later.

If the Nets don’t want Westbrook’s salary, a third team could take that contract, with one of the Lakers’ picks and potentially Talen Horton-Tucker and/or Kendrick Nunn being involved.

A source told the Athletic that the chances of the Lakers landing Durant in a deal involving Davis is “zero.” Their focus, apparently, is on Irving.

We have more on the Durant/Irving situation:

  • The Nets don’t appear to be interested in Deandre Ayton, sources told John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (Twitter link). Thus, a potential trade with the Suns may not include the restricted free agent or it would have to involve a third team.
  • Irving is “fully supportive” of Durant’s trade request, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (hat tip to RealGM). Irving knew Durant trade request was possible when he opted in to the final year of his contract.
  • Ben Simmons would be the major impediment to the Nuggets getting involved in the Durant sweepstakes, Mike Singer of the Denver Post notes. League rules stipulate that teams can’t have two players on a rookie scale max extension that have been acquired via trade. Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. would both fit that description.
  • In the days before Irving’s choice to opt-in, sources close to Ayton raised the possibility of an Ayton-Mikal Bridges deal with the Nets, according to The Athletic’s Sam Amick. It was unclear at that time whether or not Durant was going to ask for a trade.
  • In the same piece, Alex Schiffer says he’s heard the Nets want multiple All-Stars in any deal for Durant.

Trade Rumors: Spurs, Hawks, Murray, Collins, Thybulle, Thunder

The Spurs and Hawks began talking about Dejounte Murray and John Collins prior to the trade deadline in February and have resumed those discussions this offseason, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, who says the conversations remain very fluid.

As Fischer explains, while Collins appeared to be part of those trade talks leading up to the draft, word spread earlier this week that the two teams were discussing a new framework that included Danilo Gallinari and three first-round picks going to San Antonio. However, one league source told Fischer that Collins was once again on the table on Tuesday. Fischer has also heard from sources that the Spurs’ asking price for Murray has gotten as high as four first-rounders.

While multiple reports in recent weeks have indicated Collins will likely be on the move this offseason, it’s unclear which teams represents his most likely landing spots outside of San Antonio. Fischer writes that the Kings, Trail Blazers, Celtics, and Nets all conveyed “some level” of interest around the draft, but adds that it doesn’t appear the Hawks have made progress in talks with any of those teams.

Here are a few more trade rumors from around the NBA:

  • As the Sixers continue to explore the trade market for possible deals, the two teams that have been linked most often to swingman Matisse Thybulle are the Trail Blazers and Mavericks, according to Fischer.
  • The Thunder still technically have unused 2021/22 cap space that could be used to absorb unwanted salary and they remain interested in exploring scenarios that use that space and net them assets, sources tell Fischer. That window will close in less than 48 hours when the NBA’s new league year begins.
  • With Russell Westbrook officially under contract for the 2022/23 season, a trade remains possible and would be the Lakers‘ preference, writes Jovan Buha of The Athletic. However, the Lakers remain averse to attaching a first-round pick to Westbrook to move him, so they’re currently planning to have him start next season on their roster, sources tell Buha.

Lakers’ Russell Westbrook Picks Up Option For 2022/23

JUNE 29: Westbrook has officially exercised his option, according to RealGM’s transactions log.

JUNE 28: Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook will exercise the player option on his contract for 2022/23, according to reports from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter links). The move, which had long been expected, will lock in Westbrook’s $47,063,478 salary for next season.

Acquired by the Lakers during the 2022 offseason, Westbrook was meant to be the final piece of a Big Three that would lead L.A. back to title contention. However, as fellow stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis battled injuries, Westbrook struggled to fit in with his new team.

Westbrook’s scoring average (18.5 PPG) was his lowest mark since 2009/10, and his 29.8% shooting percentage on three-point attempts was below his career rate. Although Westbrook started all 78 games he played for the Lakers, the team was more effective when he was off the court (-1.6 net rating) than when he was on it (-4.0).

Westbrook’s up-and-down performance was far from the only factor in the Lakers’ disappointing season, but it negatively impacted his value, making it a lock that he would opt into the final year of his maximum-salary contract rather than trying his luck on the open market.

It also makes the 33-year-old an unlikely trade candidate, since L.A. would have to attach assets and/or take on unwanted long-term contracts to move his $47MM+ salary, though the team will likely reassess its options on the trade market now that he is officially opting in.

New head coach Darvin Ham and general manager Rob Pelinka have both spoken about Westbrook returning to the Lakers next season and embracing a defense-first philosophy, suggesting that the organization is hopeful Ham can connect with Westbrook and get more out of him than former head coach Frank Vogel did.

Westbrook is now on track to reach unrestricted free agency in 2023.

Kyrie Irving Granted Permission To Explore Trade Scenarios

12:17pm: According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report (Twitter link), sources with knowledge of the situation increasingly believe that Irving is willing to decline his player option and sign with the Lakers for the $6.4MM taxpayer mid-level exception.

In that scenario, Fischer writes, Irving could get a raise and a longer-term deal from the Lakers in 2023. The team still doesn’t project to have enough room to offer him a max contract at that point, but could theoretically get close.

Meanwhile, in his full story on the Irving situation, Wojnarowski writes that Durant “remained an advocate” for the Nets to give Kyrie a long-term deal.

11:42am: The Nets and Kyrie Irving haven’t made any real progress toward reaching an agreement that will keep him in Brooklyn going forward, writes Kristian Winfield of The New York Daily News.

In fact, according to Winfield, Irving’s camp has requested and received permission from the Nets to speak to other teams about potential trade scenarios. Alex Schiffer of The Athletic and Brian Lewis of The New York Post (Twitter links) have heard the same thing.

Although those reports suggest Irving’s camp is looking into possible “sign-and-trade packages,” many of the teams said to be on the point guard’s wish list wouldn’t have the ability to acquire him via sign-and-trade due to their proximity to the projected luxury tax line.

Sign-and-trade talks also technically aren’t allowed until free agency begins this Thursday evening, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski notes (via Twitter). While teams and agents often play fast and loose with those rules, they may be a little more hesitant to do so this year after two teams were penalized last year for “gun-jumping” violations related to sign-and-trade agreements.

[RELATED: Hoops Rumors Glossary: Sign-And-Trades]

Opt-in-and-trade scenarios – in which Irving picks up his $36.9MM player option for 2022/23 – would be more viable for many potential trade partners. Kyrie has until Wednesday to make a final decision on his option, and there’s a sense in both league and player circles that he may have played his last game in Brooklyn, says Winfield.

According to Wojnarowski, however, no teams besides the Lakers are seriously considering the idea of pursuing Irving, and Brooklyn isn’t believed to have interest in any trade package L.A. could realistically offer.

Wojnarowski’s report is similar to what he said during a TV appearance on Friday (hat tip to NetsDaily). At that time, Woj described the talks between the Nets and Irving as “acrimonious,” but suggested that no teams besides the Lakers were thought to have serious interest in the point guard. The other clubs reported to be on Irving’s wish list are the Mavericks, Heat, Clippers, Knicks, and Sixers.

“The interest isn’t mutual in several of these places,” Wojnarowski said on ESPN.

Here are more updates on the Irving situation:

  • According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, there are sources close to the situation who “strongly believe” Irving is trying to make his way to the Lakers. Amick, who gets the sense that LeBron James is “very open” to the idea, notes that most people around the NBA believe the Nets would have zero interest in taking on Russell Westbrook in any trade with the Lakers.
  • Amick has heard that the Knicks have no interest in Irving and expect him to end up remaining in Brooklyn. Amick describes the Clippers as in “wait-and-see” mode when it comes to Kyrie.
  • Even with the threat of Irving’s departure seemingly increasing and Kevin Durant‘s future uncertain, the Nets appear unlikely to relent and offer Kyrie a long-term maximum-salary contract, ESPN’s Zach Lowe said during a Monday appearance on Get Up (video link). “Everything I’ve heard, the max deal is not coming. The Nets are not going to be held hostage by the threat of Kyrie Irving (leaving) and then Kevin Durant following him out the door,” Lowe said. “They appear ready to actually take some kind of stand here. That doesn’t mean that there’s not going to be a fair compromise offer somewhere, wherever that lands.”
  • While Lowe did suggest that a compromise between Irving and the Nets is possible, he believes Kyrie’s flight risk is real: “I do think this is a precarious situation for the Nets. I don’t think this is the kind of thing where it’s actually kind of calm and the media is blowing this out of proportion. I do think there are scenarios where in a week he’s gone and the Durant situation is wobbly.”

L.A. Notes: Clippers’ Draft, Leonard, Kennard, Christie, Westbrook

The Clippers are emphasizing continuity with their roster, which is why they passed on making a draft-night trade for the first time in seven years, writes Mark Medina of The team’s quiet draft was influenced by its two stars, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, who are collaborating with the front office on personnel moves.

“They are great partners. There’s a lot of give and take and talking,” president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said. “They have great insight. They passionately care. They care about the type of people that are in the locker room. They look for people who work, have great habits, are pros, can contribute to winning and are great in the locker room. Yet at the same time, they are very respectful that at the end of the day it’s our job to make the decision. But their opinions are very, very valuable.”

Frank also offered a medical update on Leonard, who missed the entire season after suffering an ACL injury during the 2021 playoffs. The team is encouraged by Leonard’s progress and expects him to be ready for the start of next season.

“He continues to do great,” Frank said. “He’s maniacal in his work ethic. It’s fun to see. I’m glad we can afford the light bill because he’s putting in the hours.”

There’s more NBA news from Los Angeles:

  • Frank dismissed rumors that the Clippers are trying to trade Luke Kennard, Medina adds. Frank said there’s “zero truth” to the report, noting that Kennard is coming off an “unbelievable season” in which he led the league in three-point percentage.
  • The Lakers were excited to land Michigan State’s Max Christie after trading into the second round, per Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times“It’s very rare to have a consensus pick,” general manager Rob Pelinka said. “Maybe at No. 1 you can kind of get a room full of scouts and get a consensus pick. But once you get to 35, there’s just so many varying opinions. But very uniquely on this night — it doesn’t happen all the time — but Max was a consensus pick of all the scouts and all the front-office people.” Pelinka believes Christie could have been selected in the top 15 or 20 next year if he had returned to school.
  • Pelinka and new coach Darvin Ham have met with Russell Westbrook to set parameters for next season, Medina writes in a separate story. Westbrook became a lightning rod for criticism after being acquired from the Wizards last summer. “We’ve been honest about how we think he fits with this team and what we expect of him next year if he decides to opt in and be here,” Pelinka said of Westbrook, who hasn’t yet officially exercised his $47MM player option for next season. “He’s ready to embrace the philosophy of defense first as well. He made that clear to Darvin and me if he chooses to come back.”

Los Angeles Notes: Ott, Westbrook, Brogdon, Swider, Clippers’ Targets

Darvin Ham‘s Lakers staff is starting to take shape. Nets assistant Jordan Ott will join him on the West Coast and move into a more prominent role in front of the Lakers’ bench, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets. Ott has been with Brooklyn since 2016. He served as Steve Nash’s offensive coordinator this past season.

We have more from the Los Angeles teams:

Western Notes: Westbrook, Bleijenbergh, Suns, Thunder

Appearing on The Dan Patrick Show, Lakers head coach Darvin Ham gave an honest assessment of Russell Westbrook‘s potential role with the team next season, as relayed by

“I think the style of play we’re going to have, you know, all of those guys — not only just Russ but LeBron, AD — they’re going to be able to share the load,” Ham said as part of a larger quote. The Lakers’ new coach also mentioned that he’s challenged Westbrook to defend at a high level and the former MVP has accepted the challenge.

Here are some other notes from the Western Conference:

  • Vrenz Bleijenbergh has accepted a summer league invitation from the Suns, he announced on social media (Twitter link). The Las Vegas Summer League will be held from July 7-17 this year. Bleijenbergh, 21, is a 6’10 forward who played in Spain and with the Windy City Bulls this season. He went undrafted last year.
  • Longtime Suns employee Melissa Fender Panagiotakopoulos, who had been working for the franchise since 2007, resigned from her position last month and alleged that she was targeted and retaliated against by her superiors after voicing concerns about gender equity within the organization, reports Baxter Holmes of ESPN. While Panagiotakopoulos didn’t reference any issues with Robert Sarver in her complaint, the Suns’ owner remains under investigation due to allegations that he engaged in misogynistic behavior and created a toxic work environment
  • Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman examines the Thunder‘s draft outlook, which includes how the team is tied to Shaedon Sharpe and other miscellaneous notes. Among those notes is forward Jalen Williams, who worked out for Oklahoma City and has reportedly climbed draft boards. “It’s a well-run organization,” Williams said of the Thunder. “They have a lot of culture and history with good players. They’re really structured. It was a really cool experience to see how disciplined they were and see how serious they take even the little things during the workout.” 

FA/Trade Rumors: Ayton, Centers, Turner, Beal, Saric, Lakers

Echoing comments made last week by Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, Marc Stein writes in his latest Substack article that Suns center Deandre Ayton – a restricted free agent this summer – may be the biggest name to change teams in the coming weeks.

Phoenix is “increasingly expected” to explore sign-and-trade scenarios involving Ayton, according to Stein, who says there’s plenty of skepticism around the NBA about the team’s desire to make a significant financial commitment to the young center.

Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report conveys a similar sentiment in his latest round-up of NBA rumors, suggesting there’s “considerable skepticism” that the Suns will re-sign Ayton. The Pistons, Spurs, Trail Blazers, Hawks, and Raptors have all been mentioned as possible suitors for the former No. 1 overall pick, Stein notes.

Here are a few more updates from Stein and Pincus on some of this year’s top free agents and trade candidates:

  • According to Pincus, some sources believe that the Spurs (Jakob Poeltl), Bulls (Nikola Vucevic), Hawks (Clint Capela/John Collins), and Pacers (Myles Turner) are among the teams that could be willing to move their current centers in a package for one of the offseason’s top available big men (Ayton, Rudy Gobert, etc.). Grizzlies center Steven Adams also may be a summer trade candidate, though he’s well-liked in the locker room, says Pincus.
  • While both Pincus and Stein have talked to sources who believe the Pacers are likely to keep Myles Turner, Stein notes that the situation could change if the big man wants to play out his expiring contract rather than agreeing to an extension, since Indiana may not want to risk losing him for nothing next year.
  • According to Stein, one or two teams hopeful of landing Bradley Beal believe the All-Star guard wants to be the Dirk Nowitzki of D.C., sticking with the Wizards for his entire career.
  • While Dario Saric‘s $9.24MM expiring contract makes him an obvious trade candidate, Pincus writes that the Suns are hopeful the forward can return to form after missing last season due to an ACL tear, and may not be looking to move him.
  • If the Lakers have any hope of trading Russell Westbrook without including a first-round pick, they’ll likely have to take on at least one or two players earning $15-25MM annually on multiyear deals, Pincus writes, citing veterans like Davis Bertans and Duncan Robinson as hypothetical examples. Rival executives and agents don’t expect the Lakers to get clarity from LeBron James on his long-term intentions before the draft or free agency, which will complicate L.A.’s decision-making process — the team would be more comfortable taking on pricey multiyear contracts with a guarantee that LeBron is sticking around long-term, Pincus observes.

Pacific Notes: Suns, Sarver, Westbrook, Clippers

An outbreak of COVID-19 may help explain the Suns‘ shocking loss to the Mavericks in Game 7 of their second-round series, according to Sam Amick and Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Six members of the organization, including one player, returned positive tests either late in the series or a day after the 123-90 defeat.

Assistant coach Bryan Gates tested positive following Game 6 and had to sit out the final game, the authors add, while some players said they weren’t feeling well before Game 7. The risk of COVID transmission prevented the Suns from having their traditional in-person exit interviews, which were replaced by a Zoom session involving the entire team.

The incident raises concerns that Phoenix wasn’t following league guidelines for testing. The Suns insist that all protocols were adhered to, although they declined to talk to Amick and Vardon for the story. A league spokesman said there’s “no evidence” of any rules violations by players or staff members.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • An independent investigation of Suns owner Robert Sarver involving workplace misconduct is nearing its end, NBA commissioner Adam Silver tells Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. “It’s a complex investigation. There are hundreds of people who are involved and need to be interviewed,” Silver said. “And we also want to make sure we protect the rights of everyone involved. So these things by nature, I know what frustrates people, do seem to take a lot of time, but we’re certainly getting very close to the end.”
  • The Lakers have shifted their public statements about Russell Westbrook over the past two months and now seem resigned to having him on the roster next season, notes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. Darvin Ham talked to Westbrook about the need to sacrifice for the good of the team, but Goon points out that Westbrook is in a position to undermine the first-time head coach if he doesn’t heed Ham’s advice.
  • Former Wisconsin forward Vitto Brown, who played in Spain this season, was among the players at the Lakersfree agent mini-camp this week, tweets Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
  • The Clippers‘ new Intuit Dome, which is set to open in 2024, will feature the largest ever double-sided halo display in an arena setting, according to Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register.

Lakers Notes: Davis, Wallace, Ham, Draft, Westbrook

Speaking to the media on Monday for the first time since being named the Lakers‘ head coach, Darvin Ham didn’t undersell Anthony Davis‘ importance to the franchise moving forward, as Jovan Buha of The Athletic relays.

“I think he’s the key,” Ham said of Davis. “We’ve all seen what can happen when he’s healthy and playing at a high level and in rhythm. We saw it in the bubble. His skill set, his size, his versatility, his defensive acumen, his relentlessness, his ability to give multiple efforts defensively is key. It’s going to be the foundation of the type of standard we set in the ‘Darvin Ham era.’ It’s going to be built on that defense and he’s going to be the main piece, the centerpiece of it.

LeBron (James) is always going to be great; LeBron is going to be LeBron. Russ (Westbrook) is going to be Russ. But we need consistency out of Anthony Davis. We need him to be healthy, we need him to be in a good mental space. And we need him to be as consistent as possible, like we’re playing that championship-type level of basketball. And we’re going to do everything in our power to support him.”

Davis has been limited to just 76 games across the last two seasons due to injuries, but has played at his usual All-Star level when healthy, averaging 22.5 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 3.1 APG, and 2.0 BPG in those 76 appearances.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • Addressing the rumor that his former Pistons teammate Rasheed Wallace will join the Lakers’ staff as an assistant, Ham referred to is a “fluid” situation, according to Buha. “He’s definitely a candidate that we’ll take a look at, but we’re working through that,” Ham said, confirming that no formal agreement is in place yet.
  • In a column for The Los Angeles Times, Dylan Hernandez argues that the Lakers’ leaders – including Ham and VP of basketball operations Rob Pelinka – are lowering expectations for the offseason moves they can make and shifting the responsibility for next season’s success from the front office to the players.
  • Pelinka has interest in buying a second-round pick in this month’s draft, he told Mike Bresnahan during a Spectrum SportsNet interview (Twitter link via Marc Stein). The Lakers still have about $4.44MM available to send out in trades before the 2022/23 league year begins, as our cash tracker shows.
  • Although Ham said all the right things about Russell Westbrook during his introductory press conference on Monday, it remains to be seen whether he’ll have more luck than Frank Vogel did getting the former MVP to fully buy in to his message, Bill Oram writes for The Athletic.
  • In case you missed it, at least three Lakers assistant coaches – including David Fizdale – won’t be retained for 2022/23, but Phil Handy will be back. Here’s our full story.