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Nets Rumors: Kyrie Irving Can Seek Trade; Lakers' Russell Westbrook Deal 'Unlikely'

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVJune 27, 2022

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Kyrie Irving's departure from the Brooklyn Nets appears more likely by the day.

On Monday, Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News reported: "While Nets general manager Sean Marks and superstar forward Kevin Durant have yet to speak this offseason, Irving's camp has requested and received permission from the Nets to speak with other teams about sign-and-trade packages."

Winfield added that a "a Durant and [Russell] Westbrook reunion in Brooklyn remains unlikely," which would rule out the Lakers as a sign-and-trade option given that Los Angeles wouldn't have any other players to move in such a deal to make the money work other than LeBron James or Anthony Davis. The Lakers ostensibly would covet Irving to pair with that duo, not replace one of them.

As for whether Irving still wants to be with the Nets, he passed on the opportunity to answer that question directly:

Complex Sports @ComplexSports

We asked Kyrie if he still wanted to be a Brooklyn Net 👀 <a href="https://t.co/QYYDajosJW">pic.twitter.com/QYYDajosJW</a>

Irving later responded to the clip, saying his smile meant "there's more to the story" and that he'd have his "time to address things."

Complex Sports @ComplexSports

Kyrie speaks out: <a href="https://t.co/u0UmeeRPuE">pic.twitter.com/u0UmeeRPuE</a>

If the Nets don't agree take on Westbrook and his $47 million contract in a sign-and-trade with the Lakers for Irving—just imagine the awkward reunion Durant and Russ would have after their acrimonious Oklahoma City divorce—the only other realistic avenue for the Lakers to acquire Irving is signing him to the taxpayer mid-level exception worth $6.3 million.

Given that Irving could simply opt into his $36.5 million player option for the 2022-23 campaign, it's hard to imagine him flushing $30 million down the drain. If there ever was a player unpredictable enough to do it, however, it would be Kyrie.

The other issue for Irving is that of the teams reportedly on his sign-and-trade wishlist—per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, that group is the Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks, Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks and Philadelphia 76ers—"sources said some of them aren't interested in acquiring him."

Woj expanded on that report Monday:

Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn

ESPN Sources: Outside of the Lakers, there are currently no known teams planning pursuit of sign-and-trades for Nets G Kyrie Irving. No sign-and-trades can be formally discussed until after 6 PM on Thursday. Brooklyn isn't believed to have interest in available Lakers packages.

The Knicks are the one team of that group that could create the cap space to outright sign Irving, but there are plenty of reports that Jalen Brunson is the free agent they covet.

The Mavericks also seem likely to try to keep Brunson, while Irving and the famous "Heat Culture" don't seem like a very good fit. The Sixers seem far more likely to prioritize keeping James Harden—the Harden-Irving pairing ended in Brooklyn with Harden requesting a trade—and while the Clippers have the moveable contracts to absorb a max deal for Irving, they'd give up quite a bit of depth in the process.

Plus, it's fair to question if some combination of role players like Marcus Morris Sr., Luke Kennard, Robert Covington, Reggie Jackson and Ivica Zubac would really move the needle for the Nets.

It's easy to see how Irving's options on the sign-and-trade front are basically non-existent at this point. That shifts some of the leverage back to Brooklyn, though Irving simply signing the taxpayer mid-level exception with the Lakers still looms as an option.

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