Much of the Los Angeles Lakers' hang-up to trade Russell Westbrook centers on a reluctance to part with their 2027 and/or 2029 first-round draft pick(s), which is understandable. Those picks are pretty much the only assets the Lakers have as a bridge to the post-LeBron era, which could be right around the corner. If they deal those picks, signaling a willingness to punt on the future, the short-term return has to be worth the sacrifice. They have to become immediate contenders.
But that's not the only hang-up. As Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times reported back in September, the Lakers were ready to give up one of their future draft picks for Bojan Bogdanovic in a deal with the Jazz, but they didn't want to take on any long-term salary, which Utah wanted to unload as part of the package. So no deal. Now Bogdanovic plays for the Pistons.
Why didn't the Lakers want to take on any guaranteed salary beyond this season? The prevailing belief is they are, or were, waiting on Kyrie Irving to become a free agent next summer, when the Lakers, per Spotrac, will be in position to create nearly $36 million in cap space with only four guaranteed contracts on the books (LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Max Christie and Damian Jones, who has a 2023-24 player option).
Given all that has gone on with Irving over the past week, it begs the question: Can this seriously still be the Lakers' plan? We know Rob Pelinka hasn't always made the best roster decisions, and the Lakers are desperate, but would any team be desperate enough to bring Irving anywhere near their locker room at this point?
The drag of Irving's off-court baggage, no matter how well he plays on the court, is almost sure to leave your franchise's net rating in the red. Look at this season. Irving is averaging 27 points, five rebounds and five assists, and the Nets are 2-6. Their coach got fired. Their PR team is in crisis mode. All of this for a guy who played 29 games a year ago -- basically sabotaging Brooklyn's season and at least indirectly leading to the trade of James Harden and the subsequent trade demand of Kevin Durant -- because he refused to get vaccinated.
Even if Irving does the dance for the rest of this season, says the right things, or more importantly doesn't say the wrong thing, and the Nets salvage some semblance of a competitive season, most of which feels unlikely, what evidence suggests that Irving's next batch of drama isn't brewing right around the corner?
That's the thing with this guy. You literally have no idea what he's going to say, what he's going to do, from one day to the next. He's like those signs on the side of the road that say "Fire Danger High Today" because you know it only takes one little spark. I'm from Northern California. If you follow the news out there, you know, the fires are inevitable. So is Kyrie. At some point, he's going to burn your team to the ground.