On ESPN’s Get Up Friday, Brian Windhorst, Zach Lowe and Nick Friedell agreed on one thing: a trade centered on Kyrie Irving for Russell Westbrook looks inevitable at least at this point, and it’s likely if a deal does get done, the Lakers will have to “incentivize” the Nets.
There’s been little to report the last 24 hours on the status of Kevin Durant and Irving’s unhappiness in Brooklyn, other than reports that the Spurs might somehow get involved in a Lakers-Nets trade and that Irving is in Los Angeles, taking in a WNBA game.
Friday morning, though, the ESPN trio was working under the assumption that a deal could bring Westbrook to Brooklyn ... and that at this point, there’s no market for either player other than for each other.
“I think this is a lost cause for Russ in Los Angeles,” Lowe said, noting that despite Darwin Ham’s plan to “re-direct” the nine-time All-Star, it’s not going to work. “They’ve got to find a way to move on from him and get Kyrie Irving if they’re serious about winning the title next year or even trying to.”
“And by the way, if you have LeBron at age 37/38 up for a contract extension, you’ve got to be all in for this coming season or else what are we even doing here.”
Windhorst, asked if the trade could work, said it could but there are issues ... and that in a straight-up deal, the Lakers would have to add assets.
“It’s feasible,” started Windhorst. “I mean the trade functionally works. And I’ve been talking about how difficult it is to trade a player making $36 million. Well, here’s one where you don’t need to aggregate five players together to make it happen.
“The problem is that the Nets don’t know what they’re going to have on their roster — and on their salary books after a Kevin Durant trade or if they don’t trade Kevin Durant. They don’t have that answer right now. So, taking on a $47 million player is complicated plus Russell Westbrook is a downgrade from Kyrie Irving. We can debate about availability and things like that, but it is a downgrade.
“So, if I’m taking on a player that makes significantly more money and is a downgrade, I have to be compensated for that. No to mention that there’s no other market for Russell Westbrook so I have to be incentivized to take it an bid on it. So, the Lakers are going to have to pay. They’re going to have to pay for those things and coming up with that price is going to be very difficult because the Lakers, sitting on the other side of that table, are going to say, ‘Who are you going to trade Kyrie Irving to? You’re lucky to get anything for Kyrie Irving! If we give you a second round pick, take it and say, thank you.’
“So, that’s the loggerheads we’re at right now, but I do believe eventually the Lakers need to have Kyrie Irving. I do believe he will be a Laker but getting there and the process we have getting to that spot is going to be grueling and could be very costly to the Lakers.”
Windhorst did not suggest what that cost could be. Lowe agreed at this moment, the market for Westbrook is Irving and the market for Irving is Westbrook. But he noted that the longer things go on, there will be “some other team that talks itself into Kyrie Irving on an expiring deal.”
One possibility previously discussed is the Lakers only want to give up one future first, in 2027. They only have two firsts available — in 2027 and 2029 — having sent out a haul of picks three years ago in the trade for Anthony Davis. Might the 2029 first be a sticking point?
“Well, then pay!” Lowe said. “You’re paying LeBron James and Anthony Davis like $90 million this year. You have to be all in to win the title. If you have to sacrifice a 2029 first round pick, who cares? Why else do you have LeBron James on your team? LeBron doesn’t care about that pick,” Lowe added. “He’s going to be long retired from the NBA!”
Friedell who covers the Nets for ESPN agreed.
“If you’re the Nets, you do exactly what Zach said, you wait it out and hope somebody pushes up the leverage,” said Friedell.
With regard to a KD trade, Windhorst reiterated what he had said yesterday that while the offers for Durant are “strong,” they are “not anywhere near what the Nets want and so they are settled in for a potentially long stalemate here. We’ll see if conversations in Las Vegas over the next 10 days change that. We’re going to be talking about this one for a while.”