Some Los Angeles Lakers players reportedly still have "optimism" the team can pull off a blockbuster trade for Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving during the offseason.
Dan Woike and Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times reported Friday there are "strong beliefs" around the NBA that the Lakers' "biggest stars have been pushing" for an Irving deal.
The latest twist in L.A.'s summer came Friday night when Thad Foucher, the longtime agent for Lakers point guard Russell Westbrook, told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski he'd parted ways with the nine-time All-Star because of "irreconcilable differences."
Foucher explained he's urged Westbrook to remain with the Lakers because the trade options presented so far, which center around Los Angeles needing to add assets to offload Russ' contract, would harm his individual value.
"My belief is that this type of transaction only serves to diminish Russell's value and his best option is to stay with the Lakers, embrace the starting role and support that Darvin Ham publicly offered," Foucher said. "Russell is a first-ballot Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame player and will prove that again before he is retired."
Although those comments insinuate Westbrook would rather leave L.A. regardless of the circumstances, Woike reported a formal trade request hasn't been made, at least so far.
Meanwhile, speculation about the status of the relationship between Westbrook and Lakers cornerstone LeBron James emerged last week when both players attended an NBA Summer League game but made no effort to communicate.
That storyline was furthered by comments James made on Friday's episode of HBO's The Shop (via Darryn Albert of Larry Brown Sports) about whether everyone on the team's roster had enough internal drive to chase championships.
"I'm obsessed with win or bust. What makes me have sleepless nights is when you don't have everyone that feels the same way on your club," James said. "It's time when I wish I was a tennis player or a golfer where it was literally like, 'Look in the mirror, motherf--ker. It's you versus you.'"
Given those remarks, it's worth noting LeBron won an NBA title alongside Irving with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016.
While it's obvious the Lakers could use a roster shakeup after missing the playoffs last season, doing so without sacrificing too many future assets will prove difficult.
Michael Scotto of HoopsHype reported Tuesday that L.A. doesn't want to include more than a single first-round pick in a possible Westbrook-Irving swap, but he noted it's likely to cost at least two: one to the Nets and another to a third team willing to take Westbrook's contract.
That would be reasonable if the Lakers' long-term status was solidified, but James is a potential unrestricted free agent next summer. If he leaves, which would probably be the first domino in a series of moves that would also feature the departure of Anthony Davis, their championship window would close and the rebuild would be absent multiple first-rounders.
So if LeBron wants Kyrie as the team's point guard rather than Russ, the team's front office should ask him to sign another short-term extension to eliminate that potential nightmare scenario in 2023.
If no trade is made, Ham might spend a majority of his first season as Lakers head coach trying to resolve drama rather than working on the X's and O's.