The Lakers made the headlines.
The Clippers made the move.
It was another day of rumors, reports and retweets in Laker Land Monday as the Kyrie Irving saga played out on both coasts.
Irving, admittedly a guy who walks his own path, set NBA insiders aflutter when he considered not taking his option year with the Brooklyn Nets and taking a sign-and-trade deal to go somewhere else.
These days in the NBA, that “somewhere else” usually means the Los Angeles Lakers who everyone knows are trying desperately to rebuild their team and undo the Russell Westbrook deal by any means possible. On Monday afternoon, reports surfaced that the Lakers were the only team interested in an Irving sign-and-trade.
First it was Zach LaVine…wouldn’t he look good in a Laker jersey?
Then it was Bradley Beal, natch?
Monday it was Irving’s turn to be connected to the purple and gold.
By dinner time on the East Coast, Irving announced he was taking the money (about 30 million more) to stay with the Nets and Kevin Durant announcing his decision in a cryptic tweet on Instagram – no, I don’t know what A11even is supposed to mean either.
For about 12 hours Monday, Irving was the It person on social media and sports talk radio and the Lakers were the It team (by the way, you never want to be the It person on social media).
Irving was a high school star in New Jersey, had a brief career at Duke, and was Rookie of the Year with the Cavaliers in 2011-2012.
And with much love to LeBron, remember it was Kyrie who hit the big three in Game 7 for the Cavaliers in the NBA finals in 2015-2016. After Cleveland, Kyrie went to the Celtics for a couple of years before signing with the Nets.
No doubt Kyrie is a player of elite pedigree. He played with LeBron already. He had success with LeBron. He’s a star. He has Laker written all over him. He’s not coming.
With Kyrie, there is that whole ‘flat Earth’ thing. He made some comments back in 2018 questioning whether the Earth is round or flat. Not good.
His tenure with the Nets has not been smooth either. He missed some time his first season with a shoulder injury. He couldn’t play home games for the Nets or in Toronto because of his vaccine stance. When New York City changed its policy, Irving was able to join the Nets for home games in March. He played in 29 games and scored 27.4 points, but the Nets chemistry was off.
He flipped off the Celtics crowd in the first round of the playoffs. The Nets, who were big favorites early in the year to win the NBA title, were swept by the Celtics.
The Money Talks and The Lakers Pay
Every story about Kyrie and the Lakers said the same thing. Kyrie could only sign with the Lakers for the ‘taxpayers’ (meaning a team is over the NBA salary cap and has to pay a tax on that money) mid-level exception (meaning a player can make the median salary in the NBA) of $6.3 million.
Now $6.3 million isn’t chump change, but Kyrie only had to sign his name on a Nets contract to get $36.5 million.
I’d sign the contract too.
Unfortunately, Laker fans, (look away now) these are the repercussions of making bad deals already, like Westbrook, and trading away lots of picks for Anthony Davis.
Imagine the conversation between the Lakers and Nets for Kyrie.
Nets “All right, what do you got to trade?”
Lakers “We have a confidence-shaken 33-year old guard who shoots under 30 percent from deep, makes 47 million and a first-round pick in 2028.”
Still, the fact that the Lakers are even in the conversation is a testament to the franchise’s power. Free agency starts Thursday and the Lakers will be involved one way or the other.
Meanwhile, In A Room Across The Hall
The poor Clippers. The same day the Kyrie saga is playing out, the Clippers make a smart, calculated move with great upside.
It barely gets noticed.
John Wall, who sat out all of last season with the Rockets while they went young, accepted a buyout with the Rockets and is reportedly heading to the Clippers.
Wall was the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft and had good years with the Washington Wizards. He was traded to Houston along with a first-round pick for Westbrook (the guy is like everywhere), but he didn’t play for the Rockets in 2019-2020 with injuries.
Wall played 40 games the following year on a 17-55 team and sat out last year in a mutual agreement.
Wall presents that low-risk, high-reward chance that, you know, a team like the Lakers should be considering. He should be fresh after not playing much the last three years. He knows the NBA. He’s never really been on a winning team, so he should be motivated.
So on a day everyone was talking about the Lakers, the Clippers made the best move.