The 2018-19 Los Angeles Lakers are one game away from being history. After a promising start to the season, injuries derailed what the team hoped could be a postseason appearance for the first time since 2013.
Now the work really begins.
Ever since Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka took over the Lakers’ front office, their plan has been to pursue two max free agent signings. They accomplished one last summer when they landed LeBron James with a four-year max deal.
In a limited free agent class in terms of star power, the Lakers then turned their attention to the summer of 2019. A star-studded free agent class awaits, as the Lakers hope to land just one of the marquee names that will be on the market this summer.
One of those names is Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving, a former teammate of James. The two won a championship together in 2016 as the Golden State Warriors blew a 3-1 series lead in the NBA Finals after winning 73 games in the regular season with the first ever unanimous regular season MVP.
Irving verbally committed to Celtics season ticket holders before the season that he intended to re-sign with Boston this summer. But after all the ups and downs the Celtics have endured this year, it appears Irving’s tone has changed. Buzz continues to build that Irving could head elsewhere after dealing with a fair share of frustrations with the Celtics.
“I’m told Kyrie Irving will grant the Lakers an interview this offseason, this summer. The Lakers will have an opportunity to get Kyrie Irving to come to LA. I didn’t say he’s coming to LA. I did not say that. I don’t know what he’s going to do, but during his free agent tour, I’m told he’s going to give the Lakers an interview.
As Smith adds right after this quote, this is pretty significant news when you consider all the reports just a couple of years ago stating Irving wanted to be traded because he didn’t want to play with James anymore. This also comes after Irving reached out to James earlier this season to bury the hatchet and reportedly apologize for how things turned out with that situation. Since then, the two seem to have gotten along just fine.
If Irving is willing to play alongside James again, then the Lakers may be in business. There are reasons to believe that Irving would sign with the Lakers. Putting him alongside Lonzo Ball in the backcourt with James and Brandon Ingram on the wings, plus Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart off the bench is a great foundation to build upon. Or the Lakers could swing a trade with their young players to add a third star. Either way, they would have options.
But Irving would have to leave a playoff team in the East that has a legitimate chance at a deep playoff run. Irving’s hometown New York Knicks also loom large, as they will have enough cap space to sign two max players this summer. They also have the highest odds (along with two other teams) at landing the top pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, which will almost certainly be Zion Williamson for whoever gets that pick.
As the entire Irving situation has taught us, things can change quickly in the NBA. If the Lakers do get this meeting, then it will be time to deliver. Until then, the Lakers need to prepare to make their big plan become a reality.
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