LA Make Hay: Can the Lakers Profit from Irving’s Absence for the Nets?


If three is the magic number, then the Brooklyn Nets will be ruing the loss of one of their deadly triumvirate of stars.

It has been confirmed that Kyrie Irving will sit out the start of the 2021-22 NBA season, if not even longer, leaving aces James Harden and Kevin Durant without their much-vaunted ‘third wheel.’

So respected is Irving that the basketball betting odds for the upcoming NBA campaign have altered, with the Nets’ position as favorites to lift the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy now diminishing and the aspirations of the LA Lakers, and their backers, shortening in response.

It will be interesting to see how the Nets fare without their star point guard, and while Harden and Durant will pick up some of the slack in the absence of the 29-year-old, it was clear for all to see in the titanic Eastern Conference semifinals against the Bucks last term how Brooklyn struggled when Irving was sidelined with a damaged ankle.

Cam Thomas will probably be brought into the fold to replace Irving, and while he showed plenty of promise in the Summer League, you wonder how the pressure of replacing a seven-time All Star in his first full season will impact the 20-year-old.

Off-season dealings suggest that the Nets will be a stronger defensive force in the 2021-22 campaign, but they will lose some of their attacking spark without Irving. In an NBA Championship battle that could be decided by the slimmest of margins, you wonder if – from a betting perspective – there are better value players available.

Lakers’ Ocean of Stars

If you can’t beat them, join them. And if you can’t join them, outspend them. Like many team sports, money talks in pro basketball, and the LA Lakers, fresh from their derisory 2020-21 season, have taken such a concept on board and ran with it.

It’s somehow fitting that a team that is based a stone’s throw from the Hollywood sign would produce a blockbuster off-season, and that’s exactly what Rob Pelinka and co have done – just three players remain on the roster from that disaster movie of a campaign. There were those who claimed the Lakers lacked identity and personality last term, and that’s an issue that has been addressed with the signing of the ever-divisive Russell Westbrook.

There’s no doubt that he’s still a major figure in the NBA, and combined with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers have some of that star power back that was so evidently missing last time around. Then there’s ten-time All Star Carmelo Anthony, who still has gas in the tank and will prove to be an interesting foil to the Westbrook-LeBron dynamic.

The loss of both Andre Drummond and Marc Gasol is something of a head-scratcher, and Frank Vogel still has work to do to figure out his most potent starting five. But if he can get the combination right, it’s not beyond the pale that the Lakers become the most likely NBA champions this term.

And from where they finished the 2020-21 season, that would represent the most remarkable of turnarounds.

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