“There’s palpable optimism that an agreement can be struck between the two sides this offseason, but there remain a few hurdles, sources said,” Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes reported Saturday.
The completion of the blockbuster trade hinges on the Lakers incentivizing the Nets to absorb the 33-year-old Westbrook and his $47 million expiring contract.
Irving, 30, is much younger and still in his prime, with $36.5 million owed to him next season. The Lakers are motivated to make the trade to maximize their championship window, especially with James’ future in Los Angeles in doubt. James, 37, is eligible for a two-year, $97.1 million contract extension this offseason.
Last May, Irving reflected on his past relationship with James in Cleveland.
“I definitely feel like if I was in the same maturity level now and understanding of who I am, and I look back, we definitely, definitely would’ve won more championships because there would’ve been a better man-to-man understanding about what I’m going through,” Irving said. “I didn’t know how to share my emotions. I didn’t know how to do that. So instead of sharing, I isolated myself.”
An Irving-James reunion with a healthy Anthony Davis will make the Lakers a strong contender in the Western Conference. It could set up a potential playoff matchup against their familiar arch-nemesis Golden State Warriors.
The Nets are not willing to do an Irving-Westbrook straight swap because it will cost them $70 million more in luxury tax, per ESPN’s cap guru Bobby Marks, adding that it might take at least two future first-round picks to incentivize Brooklyn.
According to Haynes, the Nets would like to include Joe Harris and his remaining $38.6 million owed over the next two years included in the deal. The inclusion of Harris, a fan favorite in Brooklyn, signals the Nets are pivoting to a full-scale rebuild as they are determined to shave off more salaries and tax penalties. But the Lakers wanted Seth Curry, who has an $8.5 million expiring contract, instead.
Aside from the Lakers, the Dallas Mavericks and the Philadelphia 76ers are reportedly interested in trading for Irving, per Shams Charania of The Athletic.
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