As unlikely as it may have seemed after their parting of ways in 2017, it looks like Kyrie Irving and LeBron James could be reuniting again. While rumors have long linked Irving to the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks, yesterday’s Lakers trade for Anthony Davischanged everything. Irving reportedly wants to play with AD and it would be hard for him to find a better situation in free agency than L.A. Which is exactly why he should pounce on the opportunity and sign with the Lakers immediately.
Although the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks have expressed extreme interest in Irving, both teams have many uncertainties.
The Nets are coming off their first playoff appearance since the 2014-2015 season. Led by D'Angelo Russell and a bevy of young core players, the Nets were praised for their success and quick rebuild, just years after sending away their future to the Boston Celtics in arguably the worst trade in NBA history. However, the Nets were still relatively an average team, finishing the year with a 42-40 record. The Nets would also likely let Russell walk in free agency if they sign Irving, meaning Irving would be the only star on an average team.
Coming from a stacked Boston Celtics lineup on paper, it’s hard to imagine that Irving would want to join a worse Brooklyn Nets team.
On the other hand, the New York Knicks fully embraced the tank last season, posting an NBA-worst 17-65 record. With a plethora of young talent, including the likes of Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Knox and Dennis Smith Jr, alongside having the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and an abundance of cap space, the Knicks are a legitimate option for Irving. However, as appealing as playing 41 games a year in Madison Square Garden can be, just like the Nets but to an even further degree, Irving would be the star on a below-average roster. At this point in his career, and based off his prior experience with the Celtics, it’s hard to imagine that this is the role Irving desires.
Since demanding a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017 in hopes of being the star of his own team, Irving has realized how difficult the role is. During the season, Irving admitted that he talked to LeBron and apologized for his past behavior.
“I had to call ‘Bron, and tell him I apologize for being that young player that wanted everything at his fingertips,” Irving said. “I wanted to be the guy that led us to a championship. I wanted to be the leader. I wanted to be all that.”
Although Irving envied LeBron and his leadership role, he truly didn’t understand the difficulty of the role until he experienced it firsthand.
“The responsibility of being the best player in the world and leading a team is something that’s not meant for many people. And ‘Bron was one of those guys that came to Cleveland and tried to really show us what it’s like to win a championship. And it was hard for him. Sometimes getting the most out of the group is not the easiest thing in the world. Fewer are meant for it or chosen for it. And I felt like the best person to call was him.”
During his two-year tenure with the Celtics (I think it’s safe to say he’s not going back), Irving was often criticized for his poor leadership and inability to connect with his teammates. The Celtics played their best in Irving’s absence last season, making it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finalsbefore falling to the LeBron-led Cavaliers. This past season, the Celtics boasted one of the most impressive rosters on paper, yet finished with a 49-33 record and lost the Eastern Conference Semifinals to the Milwaukee Bucks, 4-1.
With Irving having now experienced the leadership role and failed, it’s the perfect opportunity for him to reunite with LeBron and be a role player with two other stars. During his time as the second option in Cleveland, Irving not only enjoyed some of the best statistical numbers of his career but also became an NBA champion. Although Irving has expressed immense interest in playing with Kevin Durant, it has also been reported that he’s had interest in pairing up with Anthony Davis as well. With the Lakers now boasting LeBron and AD, Irving would be a perfect fit to round out what could be one of the most impressive Big Threes in NBA history. It also doesn’t hurt that the Lakers desperately need a point guard after sending Lonzo Ball away.
In just a few years, Irving has done a lot of growing up. He’s learned the difficult responsibilities of being a leader, which garnered a new respect towards his ex-teammate, LeBron James. With Irving and James having made amends, and the Lakers adding Anthony Davis, Irving to Los Angeles is a match made in heaven. Los Angeles provides a win-now opportunity for years to come that Irving could not find elsewhere. With Brooklyn and New York, Irving would be signing up for the same role that he failed with in the past. He would also be committing in hopes that they sign an injured KD and bank on him returning to his former self. Instead of trying to be lead a team under various uncertainties, the Los Angeles Lakers boast the perfect opportunity for Irving to play alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis on a championship contender in one of the largest markets in the world.
It’s a win-win situation for all sides and a deal that both sides should strike.