If Kyrie is available, the Lakers need to sign him – regardless of his destructive history

Kyrie Irving is likely going down as the most skilled yet destructive superstar the league has ever seen.

For all his clutch shot making, his finesse finishes, and unworldly handles, Irving’s path is more recognizable for the destruction he leaves behind.

Taking on Irving and all that comes with him is something competent front offices would surely pass on.

Is he a good employee?

Is he a good teammate?

Will he show up?

The answers, in order: “no,” “no,” and “WHO KNOWS?”

Irving is the NBA’s resident outcast, and by choice.

But the Lakers are not a competent front office. Nor are they the home of values and system.

Rob Pelinka has made all the wrong moves since coming into power, but still walked into winning a NBA championship sandwiched between putrid seasons.


Because Pelinka and the Lakers set their sights on a disgruntled star in Anthony Davis, and had him play at an all NBA level for 16 playoff games.

The Lakers are about star power and winning. Say what you want about Irving’s antics, last seen paired up with LeBron James, the duo made 4 straight NBA Finals.

Irving is far from the full commitment type. His interest will waver just as much as his health. But when locked in, he can carry an offense through a championship run.

The Lakers don’t need Irving for 82 games. They just need him healthy and engaged for 16 games in the playoffs. The same for Anthony Davis and LeBron James.

The Lakers could either angle to pull off a trade involving Westbrook and the Lakers’ cherished, distant draft picks or somehow convince Irving to do the unthinkable and take an unprecedented pay cut to sign with the Lakers outright.

The idea of Irving upending the entire system and simply signing with the Lakers for what meager funds they can offer (roughly $6 million for one season) would be as compelling to watch as it would be disruptive to the collective bargaining agreement.

Would he actually do it?

Nobody knows! It’s Kyrie!

He certainly does seem to be motivated by more than the almighty dollar, a noble trait at face value. He opted out of the Orlando bubble as part of a social-justice protest. He took time away because he was disturbed by the Jan. 6 insurrection.

But Irving’s teams routinely suffer from his commitment to his causes. They make him unreliable. He pledged to sign a long-term contract in Boston. He has similarly stated he’s in Brooklyn for the long haul alongside Kevin Durant. Jumping ship to the Lakers would be only another on-brand reversal for the sage god.

In three seasons in Brooklyn, Irving has made it on the court for all of 93 games. He has been – forgive me for this one – a Net negative.

And in a business where players are paid tens of millions to show up, unreliable is untenable. Emphasizing self-interest tends to be frowned upon in professional, team sports.

Irving’s priorities have never been more evident than when he sat out 65 percent of last season over his refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

While he was drawing that line in the sand, the Lakers wore their roster’s 100 percent vaccination rate like a badge of honor. Kent Bazemore, who had been outspoken about his hesitancy, shared that he had been persuaded by Pelinka to get vaccinated in the name of “team” and a chance at a championship.

Would Pelinka and the Lakers really welcome the guy who torpedoed Brooklyn’s season from the start of the season because he wouldn’t get a shot? Perhaps it proves some hypocrisy. But could the Lakers live with that?

If it means adding a talent like Irving, of course they could. Because even with all of his oddities, Irving is still really good. And having him on the floor some of the time is better than what they saw from 78 games of Westbrook last season. This is triage. And while the addition of Irving would be accompanied by the possibility of spectacular, explosive failure — like we’ve seen in Brooklyn — that risk feels like a better option than another year spent hoping in vain that Westbrook can make a jump shot.

James, too, would presumably be on board with a reunion. Despite some hard feelings when Irving was traded from Cleveland to Boston in 2017 – a deal that caught James off-guard – Irving has gone out of his way to make amends with James, including calling him in 2019 to apologize for some of his behavior when they were teammates with the Cavaliers.

If there’s one player in the league who can get the best – and, critically, the most – out of Irving, it figures to be LeBron.

So in short, yes the Lakers should want Irving.

No, they shouldn’t feel particularly good about the fact they really have no choice. Even with the enthusiasm surrounding new head coach Darvin Ham, a Lakers team relying on Westbrook offers little hope of a deep playoff run. As much as the Lakers have signaled their willingness to bring him back, Irving represents too stark an upgrade, warts and all, for Pelinka to ignore.

This is a desperate franchise, one that is clinging to the hope for another championship before LeBron either breaks down or bolts. One that has no meaningful blueprint for the future other than selling a past they can’t seem to duplicate.

Like a gambler chasing their next big win or an addict in search of the next high, the Lakers have to keep grasping for something that will keep them at or near the top, even if it means losing control of their own destiny in the process.

It’s hardly a sustainable model, but until the Lakers crash, they won’t have to look themselves in the mirror and chart out a new course.

Chasing Irving allows the Lakers a stay from that inevitable execution, just like they believed adding Westbrook last summer would.

Lucking into a talent such as Irving would mask the horrors of Pelinka’s mismanagement last summer, when he traded away the Lakers’ last core assets and built a roster with over-the-hill players with familiar names.

At least until Irving disappears again.

Pursuing Kyrie Irving is the NBA’s ultimate case of “buyer beware.” The Lakers just don’t have the luxury of waiting for a better option that may not come. That’s the uncomfortable reality that they have created for themselves.

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