A LeBron-Kyrie reunion with the Mavs is ‘unrealistic’ and improbable… but not impossible

The latest synopsis of the Kyrie Irving-LeBron James reunion emerged on Monday. AthleticShams Charania reports that Irving approached James about recruiting him to join Irving in Dallas.

Much of the conversation surrounding James and Irving, an unrestricted free agent this offseason, has focused on the two superstars playing in Los Angeles for a reunion. The Lakers could create between $30 million and $35 million in cap space this summer to sign Irving or absorb Irving’s salary in a deal and trade with Dallas.

James announced last summer, ahead of the Feb. 9 trade deadline, that he wanted Irving next to him and Anthony Davis in Los Angeles. The Lakers were one of the teams believed to be a potential fit for Irving last summer when he and the Nets were at an impasse in negotiations before Irving picked up his player option for 2022-23. When Irving requested a trade before the February deadline, the Lakers emerged as a possible fit for Irving.

The former teammates, who played together in Cleveland from 2014 to 2017 and won a championship in 2016, is the first time the prospect of playing in Dallas has seemed like a possibility from either side. Irving’s recruitment of James suggests he’s leaning toward re-signing with the Mavericks, who can offer him more money this offseason.

Meanwhile, the Lakers said Monday that they are not interested in adding Irving this summer, according to multiple team sources who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Ever since James hinted at retirement following the Lakers’ loss to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals, there has been a sense among and around the organization that his comments were a ploy to apply pressure on the franchise to make a point. The roster was upgraded this offseason. Many considered Irving to be James’ preferred upgrade. But a team source said the Lakers aren’t using the interest in playing with James Irving as an attempt to get them to trade for Irving this offseason.

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The primary perception from the Lakers’ perspective is that Irving is not interested in taking waivers to sign in free agency. Los Angeles would have to trade for him — his max salary starting at around $47 million, depending on final salary-cap numbers — to get him.

As for the possibility of James landing in Dallas next season, a Lakers source characterized it as “unrealistic.” While this is technically possible, it is logistically impossible.

Let’s assume James plays next season Athletic The team’s stance is that the easiest way to get James to Dallas — at least for James, Irving and the Mavericks — would be via trade. But a look at the Mavericks roster and draft picks shows limited assets that may not appeal to the Lakers in a potential rebuild.

If James were to request a trade, and the Lakers were to entertain the offer, it would take more than a collection of the No. 10 pick in the 2023 draft, Tim Hardaway Jr., Davis Bertans, Josh Green and Jaden Hardy. And another future first to make a deal. According to multiple team sources, the Lakers aren’t interested in what Dallas could offer in a trade.

If Dallas were to offer Luka Doncic for James, one would assume that yes, the Lakers would ask. But other than that, the Lakers aren’t going to trade James to the Mavericks. James may try to force their hand, but that leads to a messy power struggle.

The other way to get James to Dallas would be through a buyout, but several obstacles make that unrealistic as well.

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James agreed to a two-year, $97.1 million extension with the Lakers through 2022 that doesn’t begin until this summer. Any acquired player can technically be picked up on waivers, but the team must match that player’s full salary (in this case, James’ $46.9 million) on its cap sheet, not his agreed-upon amount. A purchase. James would have to take a steep waiver — the Lakers have no incentive to keep dead money on their cap sheet — and then sign in Dallas for far less than he’d earn. James has a $50.7 million playing option through the 2024-25 season, which he will forfeit. In this scenario, Irving would also have to take a significant discount.

James has earned nearly $400 million in basketball salary through his NBA career. He has earned hundreds of millions through endorsements, partnerships, his production company and various business ventures. But asking him to give up ten million dollars is still impractical.

James has a great relationship with Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd and assistant coach Jared Dudley, who won a championship with James and the Lakers in 2020. Doncic said early in his career that James was his favorite player growing up, and that the two had clear similarities in their playing styles, and those same similarities could make it difficult for them to play together. James has admired Doncic for years.

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After Doncic and Irving combined to go 5-11 this season and finish 11th in the West, it’s understandable why the Mavericks would be interested in trading for James and the league’s latest attempt at the big three. They’re desperate to make sure Doncic stays in Dallas long-term (he can become a free agent in 2026). But acquiring James before he becomes a free agent in 2024 isn’t fair.

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Despite Irving’s recruiting efforts, the cleanest path for James and Irving to play together is in Los Angeles, with Irving picking up waivers to sign with the Lakers in free agency or Dallas sending him in a sign-and-trade.

James to Dallas Possible … but mostly impossible.

(Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

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