Kyrie Irving is a marvel on the basketball court. Let’s get that out of the way right away.
Whatever space he has on the floor, the star point guard finds a way to navigate himself and the basketball into either a shooting option few if any could even fathom or gets off the ball and lays it in the lap of a teammate for an easy bucket. His ability to make something out of nothing is unmatched.
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Off the court … well, he has some unique views, some of them seemingly downright hateful, although he does not seem to see it that way.
The point here is that Kyrie Irving, at 31 years old, is a handful to deal with both on and off the court.
His beliefs don’t seem to mesh with the consensus, and that’s fine assuming he’s not promoting hate, but it becomes part of the negotiation within a team when it is trying to decide if getting one side of Irving is worth dealing with other.
Irving demanded a trade from the Brooklyn Nets this week and immediately the NBA landscape was filled with possibilities.
Not just the possibility of landing Irving, but that Irving wanting out will have teammate Kevin Durant looking elsewhere too. And the belief seems to be that far more teams are interested in the possibility of the latter than the former.
That being said, Irving will have his suitors.
In Los Angeles, the tire fire that is the Lakers needs some sort of relevancy besides LeBron James’ chase to become the NBA’s career scoring leader. That’s going to happen relatively soon and then what?
Then you’ve got James wasting away some meaningful years on a team that has no hope of competing for a championship.
That is a team that could risk the potential turmoil Irving brings just to have him directing the offence and seeing if the magic that was once there when he and LeBron shared a locker room in Cleveland can be revived this many years later.
The Lakers, though, are not the only team with the kind of talent that, once paired with Irving, immediately goes from pretender to contender.
The Dallas Mavericks have a once-in-a-generation talent in Luka Doncic but doesn’t have close to the talent around him to become an NBA champion. Irving would certainly help in that regard and, in Texas, his less-than-mainstream views might even be more tolerable.
Then there are the Phoenix Suns with an aging, albeit still viable point guard in Chris Paul, who is 37. Phoenix is looking to match up the prime of its own superstar in 26-year-old Devin Booker with someone closer in age than Paul.
Irving’s trade demand has quickly shifted the focus of the media from the potential bevy of stars the Raptors are believed to be making available — we’ll believe it when we see it — to the Kyrie show, which isn’t a surprise. Irving has always been a magnet for attention.
Two potential Toronto trade partners could be affected by his decision if the rumours are to be believed. Those rumours had both the Lakers and Phoenix potentially interested in a Fred VanVleet acquisition, but that was prior to Irving making himself available. Were either team to land Irving, that would obviously satisfy their need for a point guard and, in at least L.A.’s case, empties the barrel in terms of what they can offer back for VanVleet. Either way, the interest in Toronto as a trading partner likely dissipates.
But that would be about the extent of the impact the Irving news would have on Toronto at the deadline which arrives Thursday.
FINISHING UP OUT WEST
The Raptors will catch a bit of a break for Sunday’s tip against the Grizzlies in Memphis (6 p.m., TSN 4/5) with Mississauga native Dillon Brooks serving a one-game suspension for his altercation with Donovan Mitchell in Thursday’s loss to Cleveland.
Also out will be big man Stephen Adams. In the only previous meeting between the two clubs this season – a 119-106 win by Memphis in Toronto — Adams and Brooks combined for 39 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists.
The Grizzlies, though, are a deep team and still have Ja Morant, arguably the most exciting player in the NBA right now depending on how Steph Curry is going, so the Raptors will have their hands full as they go looking to secure a winning road trip.
It was still unknown at press time if Jaren Jackson Jr., the Grizzlies’ other inside force with Adams, would be available to play. He sat out the loss in Cleveland with some thigh soreness after taking a knock there the night before in Portland.
Through the first six games of the trip, the Raptors are 3-3.