Lakers News: Latest on Kyrie Irving Trade Rumors, Russell Westbrook and Thomas Bryant

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBAFeatured Columnist IVJuly 7, 2022

Lakers News: Latest on Kyrie Irving Trade Rumors, Russell Westbrook and Thomas Bryant

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    Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

    From trade talks to internal plans, the Los Angeles Lakers are making noise on multiple fronts.

    They have already enjoyed an active 2022 NBA offseason, from hiring head coach Darvin Ham, to signing a new batch of free agents and even being mentioned in the summer's biggest blockbuster trade chatter.

    With so much rumbling in Lakerland, let's break down all the latest buzz here.

Lakers Have Plan B Targets If They Can't Acquire Kyrie Irving

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    In a perfect world—perfect for the Purple and Gold, at least—the Lakers would leave this summer having reunited LeBron James with his old championship running mate, Kyrie Irving.

    Of course, things don't always go according to plan, so L.A. needs to have other options in case an Uncle Drew deal never goes down. The Lakers, apparently, already have some alternatives in mind.

    "They've looked at other deals," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said on NBA Today (via Silver Screen and Roll). "They continued, I know, to check in on Eric Gordon in Houston. That's certainly a player that interests them. Buddy Hield in Indiana ... The Lakers certainly are looking out at the marketplace, but there's no question Kyrie Irving is one of them."

    Irving is the most talented of that trio by a wide margin, but he also would be the most costly in a trade and come with the most question marks given his many absences in recent years. The Lakers could probably flip a coin to determine the better fit between Gordon and Hield, as the former offers more defense and shot-creation while the latter ranks among the Association's top shooters.

New Skipper Sees Russell Westbrook as Starting Point Guard

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    Lakers coach Darvin Ham has a million and one things to figure out for his new gig.

    You could argue the biggest item on the list, though, is bringing the best out of Russell Westbrook, since that mercurial (and colossally paid) point guard is seemingly going nowhere. Ham, who told Andscape's Marc J. Spears he sees Westbrook as a starter, said he has a clear picture of how to get the triple-double machine back on track.

    "I got a wholehearted plan, a clear plan on how I'm going to use him," Ham said. "I showed it to him, sat down, brought stuff up for him. I think he's going to flourish. We aren't going to try to curtail his energy. We're just going to diversify it, redirect it."

    It sounds like the plan is a change of role, which makes sense since Westbrook could add a lot more value to the Lakers as a screen-setter, slasher and more willing defender. Of course, that blueprint isn't a novel idea, so it's on Ham to really the sell the role change and on Westbrook to finally embrace it.

Thomas Bryant Could Be Lakers' Starting Center

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    Thomas Bryant was highly sought-after in free agency, as his combination of shooting and shot-blocking would be a boon for most frontcourts.

    He ultimately landed on the Lakers—his first NBA employer—and chose them over the Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz for one specific reason: He "will be given the opportunity to win the starting center position," per Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes.

    While it has seemed Anthony Davis was positioned to spend most (if not all) of his floor time at the 5 spot, slotting Bryant there instead could have its benefits. The Lakers wouldn't necessarily have to sacrifice spacing—Bryant has shot better than 40 percent from three in two of his five seasons, and Davis used to hover around a league-average rate before cooling off lately—but they could have the kind of size and length that helped them win the 2020 championship.

    Having said that, it could be asking a ton of Bryant, who has only played 37 games the past two seasons while navigating around an ACL tear. Still, he played at a starting-caliber level before, and if he gets that form back, he might be the best option to pair with Davis up front.


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