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NBA Free Agency: Nets eyeing leverage in Kyrie Irving, Lakers trade

It’s funny how quickly things can change. In the months after the end of the season, the Lakers were the ones trying to manufacture leverage to trade their former superstar point guard. But Kevin Durant’s trade request hours before free agency flipped the league on its head and now it’s the Nets trying to manufacture leverage as they try to find their best deal for their point guard in Kyrie Irving.

And it’s the Lakers who are lined up to be the beneficiary of all this. Let’s take a look at the latest reports and rumors all about the Kyre-Nets-Lakers situation.

Nets not interested in helping Kyrie

Probably rightfully so, the Nets have zero interest in helping Kyrie Irving find a suitable landing spot. Particularly after his actions last week as he threatened to leave the franchise high and dry after a tumultuous season in which he sat out three-quarters of it, Brooklyn isn’t willing to play ball with Kyrie anymore.

Not only are they not willing to play ball with Irving, they may not even be entertaining separate trade ideas until a KD deal is done, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN (h/t Nets Daily).

“The Nets don’t know what they’re trading Kevin Durant for,” said Windhorst. “They may not want to do a trade with Kyrie Irving that takes on money. You may take on a bunch of money when you do a Kevin Durant trade. You don’t know what your books are going to look like…

[T]he Nets have no interest in accommodating Kyrie Irving. They have no interest in doing it. If it comes up maybe a three-team trade or a four-team trade to get the Nets satisfied with what they want. To get them maybe a start. To take draft picks from Phoenix and reroute them somewhere else… Kyrie might get thrown into that four-team trade just as salary ballast. He’s going to be used as a tool to help the Nets.”

Now, the Nets are going to be bluffing a bunch right now, similar to how the Lakers swore they were going to run it back with Russ this season. Now, the idea that the Nets would need to aggregate KD and Kyrie’s salaries that would total about $70 million to complete a deal feels a little farfetched. But not nearly as farfetched as some other suggestions.

Stretching Kyrie?

Among the wildest ideas floated out there is that the Nets would consider stretching Kyrie instead of trading him. It’s an idea reported by Vincent Goodwilll of Yahoo Sports and one that seems too preposterous to be true.

It ended up being every man for himself, a true Battle Royale for the exits, at various times for various reasons.

Harden was invested until he wasn’t, and best believe the Nets have seen the last of Irving in their uniform — don’t be surprised if the Nets use the waive-and-stretch provision to rid themselves of Irving’s presence even if his scent will linger over the next three years.

If you’re keeping track at home, stretching Kyrie’s remaining expiring $36,934,550 deal would cost the Nets $12,311,516.70 over the next three seasons. And that won’t clear up cap space given the overall situation for the Nets.

As a member of #TeamPetty, this would be an incredibly petty move. Kyrie would still get paid the money, but he wouldn’t be able to sign for much of anything in the free agent market this summer given how many teams have used up their cap space and mid-level exceptions.

And it would also rob the Nets of gaining any assets for him, even if they aren’t the greatest. Really, Brooklyn only does this if they really, truly despise Kyrie and just want him out of their lives immediately at their own detriment. It’s funny, but it’s hard to believe.

What do the Lakers offer?

Clearly, then, the Nets don’t have much in the way of leverage in a trade. That opens up the question of how much the Lakers should offer in a deal and what the framework should be, something discussed by Dan Woike and Brad Turner of the LA Times.

The Lakers, though, need to weigh what they consider is appropriate compensation for a player in the final year of a contract with reliability and durability issues. The team previously balked at adding future first-round draft picks in Irving discussions, and without much league-wide interest in Irving, it’s hard to know what his actual value is and how urgent the Lakers need to act.

It’s also unknown if and how the Lakers could pursue a third team to aid in the transaction should Brooklyn prefer not to acquire Westbrook.

There are real questions about how much the Lakers should be willing to give up. Obviously, it will require some compensation to swap Russ and Kyrie and the Nets will have to include something to make up for the gap in salary, but who is included and what the total package of picks or players should be is a real debate.

In our latest Reacts survey, well over half of Lakers fans felt the team should attach picks to Russ to offload him in a trade.

That poll came before the latest developments in Brooklyn, but it also shows how willing and eager the fans are to move on from Russ in LA.

Kyrie is a talented player, but he comes with so much baggage that there are fair questions to be asked how much the Lakers, seemingly the only team interested in him, should trade to acquire him.

It’s a calculus they are in the process of making as they look to inch closer toward a deal. If they get it right and meet Brooklyn’s demands, it could lead to a brighter on-court future in LA.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.

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