First off, let’s get one thing clear: Nothing is impossible in the National Basketball Association. History is littered with enough head-scratching developments for longtime observers to definitively argue that anything can happen in pro hoops. Still, it’s fair to contend that a LeBron James-Kyrie Irving reunion isn’t likely to happen with the Mavericks. There are simply too many hurdles to overcome, not least of which are the practical considerations associated with the all-time leading scorer changing addresses.
There is, of course, James’ murky future to address first. The last time anybody saw him in public, he looked like a tired, beaten 38-year-old, 20-year veteran entertaining the notion of hanging up his sneakers. And even assuming his negative body language right after being on the wrong end of a sweep was just a knee-jerk development and not truly reflective of his sentiments, there is the not inconsiderable financial obstacle that his pay presents. He is due to receive $47 million should he opt to burn rubber anew in the 2023-34 season — which effectively means the Mavericks would tie just about their entire projected salary cap room of $134 million to him, resident star Luka Doncic (at $40 million), and free agent Kyrie Irving (at a maximum $47 million).
Given the numbers, the Mavericks would need to gut their roster first, secure the Big Three, and then fill it with journeymen on minimum deals. That doesn’t sound like a winning formula, especially not since James and Doncic appear to have overlapping skill sets. And do the blue and white actually have the personnel — any personnel — the Lakers need or want in exchange for the single most transcendent asset in the game, and still the most popular name in the league by far? Which is probably why franchise owner Mark Cuban, not known to stay silent on any matter involving his interests, has kept silent.
Who knows what Irving smoked before putting out word that he’s angling to get James to switch sides? That he’s interested in partnering with his fellow champion once more is no surprise. And, in this context, perhaps he was just goading the Lakers into action: Better they get him than the Mavericks get their foundational piece. In any case, it’s best considered for what it is; fun for a moment, and ridiculous in the face of logic. Again, there are no boundaries in the NBA. Imaginations run wild because, once in a blue moon, the improbably does become reality. Not this one, though. As the stormtrooper in Star Wars famously noted, “Nothing to see here. Move along.”
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.