The Nets are expected to land Kyrie Irving, which would make D’Angelo Russell expendable and available for an L.A. return.
Despite their ideal plan, it’s unlikely the Lakers will make enough salary cap space to sign another max player like Kyrie Irving. So to best set itself up for Plan B, the Lakers’ front office reportedly is “rooting” for Irving to land in Brooklyn and free up D’Angelo Russell for an L.A. return.
“The Lakers now at this point are rooting for Kyrie Irving to go to Brooklyn,” NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski said on ESPN. “Because then Brooklyn renounces D’Angelo Russell, who is a restricted free agent. He becomes unrestricted and then the Lakers could sign Russell as their third star in LA. And they get back a much more mature, polished player, who’s been an All-Star, whose put a team into the postseason.”
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) June 26, 2019
The 23-year-old guard began his career in Los Angeles and reportedly “may be open” to rejoining the team this summer.
Magic Johnson, who stepped down as the franchise’s president of basketball operations in late April, thinks that would be good for both sides.
“He’s better now,” Johnson, who traded Russell to Brooklyn in 2017, told The Athletic. “He’s a different player. He’s more mature.”
Russell will be a restricted free agent and the Nets can match any offer sheet he signs with another team. But, the Nets are expected to land Irving, which would make Russell expendable.
Russell averaged a career-high 21.1 points and 7.0 assists while shooting 36.9 percent from 3-point range in 81 games in 2018-19.
The trouble for the Lakers is that several teams, including the Timberwolves, Suns, Pacers and others, also have interest in Russell and could drive up the asking price for the All-Star.
Once L.A.’s trade for Anthony Davis is official next month, the team will have only between $23 million and $27 million in cap space.