The Los Angeles Lakers reportedly had significantly more interest in signing guard Kyrie Irving in free agency than acquiring him in a trade with the Brooklyn Nets.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, the Lakers weren't keen on the draft capital they would have had to surrender in a potential trade for Irving.
Instead, L.A. was reportedly hoping to sign Kyrie to a $6.5 million contract in free agency using the taxpayer mid-level exception, which is all it could have afforded due to being over the salary cap.
That path is no longer an option, as Irving announced Monday that he is opting into the final year of his contract with the Nets at a salary of $36.5 million.
Per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Irving had submitted a list of teams to the Nets that he wanted the organization to attempt to facilitate a sign-and-trade with.
Wojnarowski added that the only team on the list known to have mutual interest in Irving was the Lakers; however, Kyrie decided to opt in when no deal got done.
On his podcast, Brian Windhorst said Irving's decision to opt in was a "total surprise" to the Nets, who were bracing to lose him and potentially Kevin Durant as well.
Kyrie's decision may have largely been financially motivated since he would have left roughly $30 million on the table had he opted out and signed with the Lakers in free agency.
Brooklyn still has a chance to contend in the Eastern Conference if Durant returns and Ben Simmons is healthy after he missed the entire 2021-22 season because of a dispute with the Philadelphia 76ers and a back injury, but L.A. may have offered Kyrie a better opportunity to win his second career championship.
The Lakers did miss the playoffs with a 33-49 record last season, but that was primarily due to both LeBron James and Anthony Davis missing time with injuries and Russell Westbrook's rough transition to the team from the Washington Wizards.
A Big Three of James, Davis and Irving arguably would have been the NBA's best when healthy, although there are major durability concerns surrounding all three players.
It's possible that Irving could still get traded to the Lakers, but Los Angeles would have to be willing to part with some draft picks and the Nets would likely have to agree to take on Westbrook's expiring contract to make the salaries work.
The opt-in seemingly lessened the chances of Kyrie going to L.A. significantly, but given the rumors of issues between Irving and the Nets, a return to Brooklyn next season still isn't guaranteed.