Despite losing to the Houston Rockets on Wednesday without LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Los Angeles Lakers are happy as can be with their current lineup, according to Jovan Buha of The Athletic. In fact, they are so happy that they do not currently have any plans to sign Kyrie Irving as a free agent this summer.
Buha said the following when participating in “The HoopsHype Podcast with Michael Scotto”:
This gang has genuinely gelled as a unit. In my third season covering the team, this chemistry and atmosphere are the greatest I’ve ever noticed. I believe you can see it in the locker room and during games in the interactions on the bench. There is merely levity there. However, I do believe that the Lakers will use the majority of their upcoming free agents to run this back.
They won’t be looking to sign Kyrie Irving this offseason, according to what I’ve been informed. Naturally, that might alter. We’ll have to wait and see how the rest of the regular season goes. If they advance, we’ll watch what occurs in the postseason. But based on what I know and [from] what I’ve been told, I believe the Kyrie ship has sailed. Again, you should never say “never” since anything can happen. But, their current strategy is to run this reverse.
According to reports, the Lakers approached the Brooklyn Nets in February about trading for Irving. According to ESPN, they provided two upcoming first-round picks as well as the since-traded Russell Westbrook, but it was insufficient. The Nets sent him to the Mavericks, and soon after, Los Angeles traded D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Malik Beasley for Westbrook, Damian Jones, and Juan Toscano-Anderson in exchange for its top-four protected 2027 pick, a 2024 second-round pick, and three other players.
In July, Irving will become a free agent. Although Irving will be eligible for a beginning salary of nearly $47 million, the Lakers may theoretically free up about $30 million in cap room during the offseason. More crucially, if they signed him, they would have to waive every player on a non-guaranteed deal as well as all of their upcoming free agents. It seems sense that Los Angeles, which recently traded away a future draft selection to build a squad that is fairly balanced, is hesitant to cut almost all of its role players.
James has only appeared in three of the Lakers’ nine wins since Russell, Vanderbilt, and Beasley joined the team (all wins). Even before the new men had played a game, it was obvious that an Irving-James reunion was unlikely, though it is still uncertain how much potential this bunch has should James return if and when he does. Los Angeles did not intend to function as a cap-space team when the front management traded three second-round selections for soon-to-be restricted free agent Rui Hachimura in January. That was validated by the larger trade at the deadline.
The Lakers could theoretically extend or re-sign Russell, exercise the $16.5 million club option on Beasley, and sign restricted free agents Austin Reaves, Lonnie Walker, and Hachimura by operating as an over-the-cap team. Additionally, they can add a player by making use of what is most certainly the taxpayer midlevel exception. This approach allows them much more flexibility to make changes than the other one, even if they feel they need to mix things up at the conclusion of the season.
The Lakers’ plans today won’t necessarily be their plans in a few months, as Buha pointed out. There are possibilities for Irving and James to work together once more if they are driven enough. Yet, it is not apparent from Los Angeles’ actions that the front office is depending on it.