The two most disappointing teams in the NBA reportedly could have matched up on a trade that would have reunited LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in Los Angeles.
The Lakers internally “considered pursuing” Irving earlier this season while the Nets sidelined him over his refusal to get vaccinated for COVID-19, according to a report by SNY’s Ian Begley.
Irving and James won an NBA championship together in Cleveland in 2016, but Irving forced a trade after the following season and landed in Boston before signing with the Nets alongside Kevin Durant after two seasons with the Celtics. James won another title with the Lakers during the 2020 COVID bubble.
The Lakers (33-49) finished 11th in the Western Conference and missed the playoffs, while the Nets were swept in the first round by the Celtics.
Irving initially resumed playing road games in January, but he wasn’t able to return for games at Barclays Center until late March after vaccination mandate restrictions were amended by Mayor Eric Adams for athletes and performers.
The Nets ultimately traded unhappy Big 3 guard James Harden to Philadelphia in a package fronted by Ben Simmons, who never played for the team and underwent back surgery after the season ended.
Irving said recently on “The ETCs with Kevin Durant” podcast that he worried at times during the season that he might be traded.
“It was only the journey to enjoy at that point, because I was sitting at home and — I don’t even want to say sitting at home, I was wondering at home what my future was going to look like, you know?” Irving said. “Whether I was going to be traded, whether I was going to be released, whether I was going to get the opportunity to be on another team, how I was going to spin this for myself in a positive way.”
If Irving declines his $36.9 million option for next season he would be eligible to sign a five-year deal worth up $246 million.