There was reportedly mutual interest between Kyrie Irving and the Los Angeles Lakers before Kyrie opted into the final year of his contract with the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night.
Speaking Tuesday on the Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective podcast, ESPN NBA insider Brian Windhorst commented on the situation:
"I know that there are people in the league, and we're not talking about ancillary people, we're talking about high-ranking people, who believe that this is not done. I don't know. Let me just say this about the Lakers. He obviously was very interested in joining the Lakers. The Lakers were very interested in having him."
For now, Irving is still a member of the Nets, as he announced Monday that he exercised his $36.5 million option for the 2022-23 campaign. He has until Wednesday at 5 p.m. ET to make it official.
Before Irving opted in, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that he had prepared a list of teams to submit to the Nets in hopes of Brooklyn facilitating a sign-and-trade with one of them.
Wojnarowski added that the only team known to be on the list and reciprocating interest was the Lakers.
There is a somewhat checkered past between Irving and Lakers star LeBron James since Kyrie requested and received a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Boston Celtics in the midst of the Cavs' championship contention, although James and Irving did enjoy success together in Cleveland, winning a championship in 2016.
Also, Irving has expressed regret over the manner in which he handled the situation in years since, noting in 2019 that he personally called LeBron to apologize to him.
It is possible more healing would be needed for James and Irving to mesh as teammates again, but Kyrie likely represents the Lakers' best path toward improving on last season's disappointing result.
With both James and Anthony Davis missing significant time because of injury, plus Russell Westbrook struggling after L.A. acquired him from the Washington Wizards, the Lakers went just 33-49 and missed the playoffs.
It was a nightmarish scenario for the Lakers, but they are still just two years removed from winning a championship and already made a major change with hopes of returning to contention, as they fired head coach Frank Vogel and hired former Milwaukee Bucks assistant Darvin Ham to replace him.
The biggest issue for Los Angeles is that James, Davis and Westbrook account for so much salary that there is no easy way to improve the roster.
Trading Westbrook would be ideal from the Lakers' perspective, but his trade value is virtually nonexistent after his poor play last season.
In order to trade for Irving now that he plans to opt in with the Nets, the Lakers would likely either need to convince the Nets to take Westbrook's expiring contract or find a way to pull a third team into the deal.
Failing that, there is simply no way for the Lakers to accommodate Irving and his salary, meaning all parties involved will have to get creative in order to make Kyrie to L.A. a possibility.