For about 48 hours, the Los Angeles Lakers had a golden opportunity to magically transform themselves into championship contenders by trading for star guard Kyrie Irving, who had asked to be traded from the Brooklyn Nets. Instead, he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday.
Reportedly, even though the Lakers made a concerted effort to go after him, they had some reservations, particularly about the off-the-court issues that he has created over the last few years.
“Meanwhile, a cryptic tweet from James seemed to anticipate the arrival of Irving – a player whose All-NBA talent has often been outweighed by his penchant for on-court controversy,” wrote Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. “While one person with knowledge of the team’s interest in Irving told Southern California News Group that high-level team officials had serious concerns about his professionalism and availability – especially considering that the Lakers would have had to at least consider extending him on max or near-max money beyond this season – according to Bleacher Report, the team was willing to part with both their 2027 and 2029 first-round picks to get the deal done. It fell apart, according to a report from The Athletic, because the Nets wouldn’t stop there, also desiring two of the team’s talented young players in Austin Reaves and Max Christie.”
Irving is, without any doubt, one of the NBA’s most skilled and capable players, especially when it comes to his ability to score, handle the ball in the open court and split traps and double teams. However, he is also seen as an enigma, mostly because of some of his off-the-court incidents.
Earlier this season, he promoted a documentary on social media that most consider to be antisemitic, and when questioned about it by the media, he was standoffish and refused to give an explanation. As a result, the Nets suspended him for eight games.
Last year, he refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19, which according to a New York City municipal law that has since been repealed, forbade him from participating in any basketball activities at Barclays Center or Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. The Nets sent Irving home for much of the season, and he ended up appearing in 29 games during the regular season.
The New Jersey native also has a reputation for not being the best teammate, something which was especially a problem during his short stint with the Boston Celtics. Some have also questioned his overall commitment to basketball, given how active he is as an activist and willingness to miss games last season because of his stance against vaccines.
The Lakers will now apparently turn their focus towards targeting other players via trade ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline. While they don’t have the greatest of assets, they may have just enough options to choose from in order to bring themselves closer to elite status.
But a big question will be whether they will still be willing to give up the future first-round draft picks they were willing to jettison for Irving.