Asked how closely he’s followed the NBA — in particular the incredible individual performances by Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook and Kawhi Leonard — in the first week of the new season, Bryant said, “I’ve been following it. I wouldn’t say closely, but if I’m home and I have a chance to put the game on, and I’m home, I’ll put the game on. I kind of know generally who is winning and who is losing. Players have been playing phenomenally well, which is rare. Normally at the start of the season you kind of have to work yourself into a rhythm. This year they just came out of the gates smoking. That’s rare.”
August 18, 2022 | 2:54 am EDT Update
The Lakers remain active in trade talks and would part with their 2027 and 2029 first-round picks in the right deal, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said in an appearance on Sports Center (video link). Those picks “have a lot of value in the marketplace” if they’re unprotected, Wojnarowski states. He adds that L.A. would be willing to give them up in a trade for Kyrie Irving, but the Nets haven’t been interested.
Those around the team were confident that James signing an extension was likely, considering how much he’s enjoyed playing for the Lakers and living in Los Angeles. The primary complication in James’ decision was that he has been privately adamant that the Lakers still need to improve the current roster and trade for superstar point guard Kyrie Irving, league sources have told The Athletic.
The Lakers have explored runs at Nets point guard Kyrie Irving ($36.9 million expiring contract), but it’s unclear if Brooklyn would want to include Joe Harris’ $19.9 million salary for 2023-24 as well. The Pacers have Buddy Hield, a former client of Lakers executive Rob Pelinka, at $18.6-23.3 million for next season (depending on incentives). Los Angeles has also explored a deal for Pacers center Myles Turner with the expectation that he would extend or re-sign beyond his current $17.5-20 million salary for 2022-23.
Per several sources connected to teams like the Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs, the Lakers have not been willing to part with significant draft capital to get off Westbrook’s contract. But that may have been tied to uncertainty surrounding James’ future, which is now put to rest.
The sense from those sources: Westbrook will have a new home when the Lakers green-light trades that include both their 2027 and 2029 first-rounders. What’s still unclear is whether L.A. will be willing to do so.
Rob Pelinka has been “very active” in attempting to add more shooting and size to the Los Angeles Lakers roster, according to Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN. “Rob Pelinka has still been very active, even in the dog days of August. He’s been on the phone a lot, he’s still trying to find deals to bring in more shooting, perhaps some size. And so I think those conversations continue all the way into training camp,” said Wojnarowski on NBA Today.
Among the executives with whom I spoke, a Boston deal with Jaylen Brown as the centerpiece appears to be the unofficial front-runner here. In general terms, sources say the Nets are using the fact that the Celtics (and perhaps other teams) have made their second-best player available as a baseline of sorts in negotiations. Translation: If you’re still trying to discuss a Durant deal without putting your second-best talent on the table, then just stop wasting everyone’s time and bow out of this race.