Drama at the Lakers is reaching boiling point with the relationship between the team’s highest paid stars Russell Westbrook and LeBron James a cause for concern going into the new season.
Westbrook recently split with long-time agent Thad Foucher, who revealed the star was looking to leave the Lakers – despite the market being lukewarm for his services.
Foucher cited “irreconcilable differences” in his release to announce the split.
The point-guard is owed over $69 million this season and with his representation now out the door, a move for the former MVP looks less likely, further increasing the chances of Westbrook and James being on the same team to start the new season.
James had pushed for Westbrook to become a part of the Lakers in the lead up to the 2021 season, however results on the court were disastrous with Los Angeles missing the playoffs a year after winning the championship.
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Reports now claim LeBron has his eyes on Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving and has been pushing for the front office to make a trade and part with more draft assets to get rid of Westbrook.
It’s understood the 33-year-old is at odds with LeBron as a result. Both players attended a recent Lakers’ Summer League game – but did not speak to each other, and both exited the game at different times through different exits.
According to Kyle Goon of the Southern California News Group, “the subtext of the chilly scene seemed clear: Several people within the Lakers organisation acknowledged it was an awkward and tense moment between its two most high-profile superstars.”
James’ recent appearance on his show “The Shop” gave fans reason to believe things aren’t where they need to be within the Lakers organisation, with some interpreting his comments as a slight at Westbrook when talking about his will to win.
“I’m obsessed with it. With win or bust,” James said. “And what makes me have sleepless nights is when you don’t have everyone that feels the same way on your club.”
While the comments could be taken in any way about anybody in true LeBron style, NBA sleuths believe it was a direct shot at Westbrook amid the ongoing instability at the franchise.
Nets trade talks for Durant, Kyrie slow
While LeBron and co. go through their preseason drama, it appears the Nets aren’t rushing to move Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, after Durant’s shock trade request.
Not long after Irving opted in to his player option for next season, Durant requested a trade, with Phoenix and Miami his preferred destinations.
However, both star players may remain with the Nets once the 2022-23 NBA season gets underway in October as trade negotiations slow to a crawl for the duo.
The Nets remain steadfast in their demands for Durant, with a huge package including All-Star players and draft picks a priority.
The Nets signed former Pacer TJ Warren to a one-year deal in their most recent acquisition, which has been viewed as a telling move.
“From everything I’m told, that stance has not changed,” The Athletic’s Shams Charania told the Pat McAfee show. “There’s no signal that he’s going to back off that. If anything, that stance is expected to continue throughout this off-season in terms of wanting a trade out of Brooklyn.
“But on the other hand, the Nets pick up T.J. Warren today. They’re making moves and doing things this off-season that in their mind is in preparation and operation as if they’re bringing these two guys back next season and playing with these two guys.
“Now, I think they’re open in dialogue and they’re open to teams like Toronto and Phoenix and Miami making offers, but until they get that price threshold met — which I am told is All-Star players, a boatload of draft picks — they’re not going to move.
“This is what they are telling teams. They’re not going to move Kevin Durant until the price is met. So we’ll see how this summer goes.”
While all indications were that Irving’s move to the Los Angeles Lakers was already pencilled in, there is currently “no traction” on a trade.
“There’s no traction on any type of a Lakers deal for Kyrie Irving,” Charania said. “There’s nothing new on that, and I’m not quite sure we’re going to see that take place.”
Kyrie Lakers rumours swirl
Leading NBA journalist’s Shams Charania’s reporting above sheds new light on the likelihood of a reunion between Kyrie Irving and LeBron James at the Lakers, with that outcome now appearing long odds.
Just two days ago it was thought the reunion for the former Cleveland Cavaliers championship duo was right on the cards, with multiple sources saying that Irving was the Lakers’ main target during the off-season.
NBA journalist Chris Haynes said that the Lakers and Nets were ‘actively engaged’ in discussions on a trade package, with former MVP Russell Westbrook going the other way.
That story comes a day after ESPN broadcaster Stephen A Smith declared that Irving was “telling everybody” he was hopeful of a move to Los Angeles.
“Kyrie Irving is telling everybody he plans on going to LA, meaning the Lakers, as soon as he possibly can,” Smith said.
Once news of Kevin Durant’s trade request filtered through last week, it became clear that Irving, 30, would be following his fellow superstar out the door.
In the wake of Haynes’ report, insider Marc Stein said Irving was “destined” to end up with the Lakers.
“I certainly believe that, too,” Stein wrote.
“I know Irving has been in Los Angeles this week, but that’s not the source of my confidence. It stems from repeated rumbles in circulation that LeBron James is rooting hard for Irving’s addition to the roster.
“James, I’m told, wants to see Irving in Laker-land more than anyone.”
Pelicans oft-injured star signs huge extension
Zion Williamson’s lost season to injury and unusual absence from the New Orleans Pelicans during his recovery didn’t stop the club from betting big on their long-term future together.
The star forward agreed Saturday to a five-year, $283 million extension with New Orleans that has the potential to be worth as much as $339 million.
Classified as a maximum rookie extension under the NBA’s labour agreement, the deal sets the stage for the 1.98m, 129kg, high-scoring power forward to give an All-Star calibre boost to a squad that recently proved it could make the playoffs without him.
Gobert leaves Utah for slew of draft picks
Rudy Gobert, one of the best defensive players in the league, has been traded from the Utah Jazz to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a blockbuster deal.
The Timberwolves sent a huge package to land the big Frenchman, shipping Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Leandro Bolmaro, Walker Kessler (who they just selected in the NBA draft) and four future first round picks to the Jazz.
Many, including Pelicans guard CJ McCollum, couldn’t believe the amount of picks that were traded away.
Celtics land star in huge trade
Last season’s NBA finalists have made a huge commitment to continuing to try and challenge for the title, sending a chunk of assets to Indiana in exchange for guard Malcolm Brogdon.
It’s a relative steal for Boston, who gave up Aaron Nesmith, Daniel Theis, Nik Stauskas, Malik Fitts and Juwan Morgan, as well as a 2023 first round draft pick. Theis averaged 12 minutes a game for the Celtics, while the rest were end of the bench guys who barely featured.
Mills staying in Brooklyn
Patty Mills will now remain a member of the Brooklyn Nets, after signing a two-year deal to stay with the team rather than test the market in NBA free agency.
The 33-year-old declined an option worth $9 million on Thursday, but instead of hitting free agency, has signed a two-year deal worth $21 million.
Joe Ingles has also locked down his short-term future in the league, after wife Renae tweeted on Friday morning that he had agreed to a one-year deal with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Ingles was a standout for the Utah Jazz for almost a decade, before his time with the team came to a sad end last season – he tore his ACL in January and was then traded to the Portland Trail Blazers as part of a multi-team deal, and obviously never played a game for them.
Superstar requests trade
It’s fair to say that the news of Mills’ new deal wasn’t the biggest news coming out of the Nets camp overnight, with multiple reports confirming that superstar Kevin Durant has requested to be traded away from the team.
The two-time NBA Finals MVP joined the Nets for the 2020-21 season after recovering from a torn Achilles, and they were expected to contend for a title last year with a roster that also included James Harden and Kyrie Irving.
Instead, the former was traded mid-year and the latter struggled for games due to his stance on vaccinations, and the Nets were bounced out of the play-offs in the first round by the Boston Celtics.
Now, it looks like the experiment will end after just a year.
“It appears as if the Brooklyn Nets are going to honour the request, and try to find a trade for Kevin Durant,” ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said.
“Teams have been working to this contingency for the last few days – they will hit the ground running, I would not be surprised if it happens relatively soon.”
Windhorst also said that Irving, who it seemed like was staying put in New York, would follow Durant out the door.
“I believe this will also mean Kyrie Irving will potentially be on the trade market as well,” he said.
“I believe that they will probably trade both of them.”
MVP set for biggest contract in history
Nikola Jokic is poised to ink a five-year, $382.8 million supermax contract extension with the Denver Nuggets, which would be the biggest contract in the history of the NBA.
Designed to help teams retain their star players, a ‘supermax’ contract is an extension that is only available to players who have been on the roster for an extended period of time, allowing their current team to offer more money than any competitor could.
Only a handful of players are on such deals at the moment, and Jokic’s would dwarf that of Giannis Antetounmpo, whose five-year, $228 million contract is currently the largest-ever.
His red-hot start to the season gradually petered out, but he’s still got plenty to offer in what has been a glittering NBA career, the high point being a championship ring in 2014.
Harden to become free agent
James Harden, the former league MVP, turned down a one-year, $68.6 million option with the Philadelphia 76ers, whom he was traded to from the Nets in February, with Australian Ben Simmons going the other way.
This doesn’t mean that Harden will leave the team – and reports from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski claim that both sides are keen to work out a long-term deal, and one that would see Harden play a part in re-shaping the roster that wants to be considered among title contenders next year.
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Expect a deluge of signings to be announced in a week’s time – free agents are allowed to negotiate with teams from Friday morning Australian time, but deals cannot be confirmed until the early hours of July 7.
Blockbuster trade leaves Spurs fans stunned
San Antonio fans were left scratching their heads after All-Star Dejounte Murray was traded to the Atlanta Hawks, for a package that included Danilo Gallinari and ‘multiple first-round picks’.
It’s a clear declaration that the Spurs have moved into re-build mode, with the 25-year-old entering his prime and coming off the best season of his blossoming career.
Murray and guard Trae Young will form a deadly tandem in Atlanta, who are pushing their chips into the middle in what is shaping up as a wide-open Eastern Conference.
Murray signed a four-year, $92.9 million contract in 2019, meaning his new team will have two years of control.
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