Kyrie Irving’s departure from Brooklyn, alluded to months earlier by GM Sean Marks (“We’re looking for guys who want to be a part of something bigger than themselves”), feels all but inevitable with the Lakers seen as heavy favorites to acquire him. The pieces are still being hashed out—it would likely require the Nets to absorb Russell Westbrook’s expiring contract—but the seeds of a potential Kyrie blockbuster have been planted with optimism a deal will eventually be reached. And, according to league insider Marc Stein, formerly of ESPN and the New York Times, nobody is rooting harder for the Lakers to land Kyrie than his former Cavs teammate, LeBron James.
“James, I’m told, wants to see Kyrie in Lakerland more than anyone,” Stein detailed in his Substack newsletter. “It is impossible to ignore the growing expectation leaguewide that a LeBron and Kyrie reunion in [Los Angeles] looms.”
For all his talent, Irving has proven immensely difficult to play with, frustrating teammates—including James—throughout tenures in Cleveland, Boston and now Brooklyn. But James, who won a ring with Irving in 2016, knows firsthand what the 30-year-old is capable of when healthy and motivated. Unfortunately, he was neither of those things in Brooklyn, effectively torpedoing the Nets’ season with his refusal to get vaccinated. Irving’s perceived selfishness rubbed many the wrong way, including James Harden, who decided he’d rather team up with Joel Embiid in Philadelphia than wait for Kyrie to get his act together.
After missing the playoffs for only the fourth time in 19 NBA seasons, James knows he’s entering the final stretch of his career with limited opportunities to add to his resume. That sense of urgency could be a factor in L.A.’s pursuit of Irving, who averaged 27.4 points on 46.9-percent shooting (41.8 from downtown) over 29 games last season.
If anyone can tap into Irving’s potential it’s James, who, as noted by Stein, has “thrived in chaos,” bringing championships to every team he’s ever played for. In fact, without Irving’s dagger three (preceded moments earlier by James’ chase-down block to deny Andre Iguodala at the rim) in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals, Cleveland might still be searching for its first title.
The core trio of Irving, James and Anthony Davis would make the Lakers immediate contenders, though L.A.’s path to a record 18th Larry O’Brien Trophy would still be complicated by the Warriors, Suns (Phoenix has been a rumored destination for Kevin Durant) and Clippers, among other formidable opponents in a deep Western Conference.