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Clippers indirectly shut down Kyrie Irving trade rumors

Kyrie Irving, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Clippers trade

PLAYA VISTA — The Los Angeles Clippers wrapped up a rather quiet 2022 NBA Draft by selecting Moussa Diabate 43rd overall with their lone draft pick. The 2022 NBA Draft marked the first time since 2014 that the franchise did not make a trade on draft night. While they weren’t really involved in any draft trade rumors, their name has been throw around in trade talks involving Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving.

Over the last couple of days, the Clippers have been linked to Irving by both ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and The Athletic’s Shams Charania. Irving has currently reached an impasse with the Nets in contract negotiations, and if the two sides can’t agree on a deal, the electric scoring guard is reportedly eyeing a handful of teams in potential trade scenarios.

The Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks were initially listed as potential trade destinations for Irving alongside the Clippers should he request a trade. Wojnarowski reported that aside from the Lakers, Knicks, and Clippers, the Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks, and Philadelphia 76ers are also among Irving’s list of destinations.

During his media availability following the 2022 NBA Draft, Clippers president Lawrence Frank was asked about players the team could potentially sign or trade for, as well as how those deals are evaluated beforehand. For full context, here’s the exact question, the complete answer from Lawrence Frank, as well as a video of the answer below.

Reporter: “With any free agency or trade possibilities moving forward, where do you rank/weigh variables such as leadership qualities and availability history?”

Lawrence Frank: “Yeah, I think you look at it all. And you start first with the question: How does this player’s skill sets with the group? Does it enhance the group? Does it help connect the group? Is it a young, emerging player that may have a pathway to play? Is it a veteran who provides a skill set that maybe we need? Is it a player that has unbelievable basketball character, and yet has great self-awareness and knows where they are at at their stage?

So I think you really, really study it, and I mean, any time you put a player in the locker room, whether it’s through the draft, free agency, trades, it is a statement to your team what you think of them, right, because that is their sanctuary.

So in terms of basketball leadership it is very, very important to understand the basketball character of the player.

So basketball character may be a little bit different than what you hear of in terms of character. Like basketball character is, like, can you be counted on every single day to do what you do at the highest level, and are you — how committed are you though those habits

The bond that you form with your teammates, like that’s part of basketball character. Like, can you be the same teammate when things are going bad for you as well as when things are going good for you?

And I think all those things are leadership skills. Innately, regardless of the types of players, your best players are always your leaders one way or the other because that’s what the other player is going to look to. We are really, really fortunate in that our two best players really, really, really enjoy each other. Like they have a great bond with each other, which is, I won’t say unique, but it doesn’t happen everywhere.

Those guys set a great tone of, we work, that’s what we do. We work. There is not a lot of talking in terms of hyperbole. We are about our work.

And we have an unbelievable head coach in Tyronn Lue who connects with all the guys and brings everyone together. People use buzzwords like ‘culture.’ It’s all about your people. Your people create your culture, and so yeah, we look at all those things and try to study, ‘Okay, if we are going to bring this player in the locker room, how does it fit?’

We are also very much involved in that process, T-Lue, our best players and Steve [Ballmer], and make sure everyone is comfortable with who we are putting in that locker room.”

With these comments, among others from the night, Lawrence Frank essentially confirmed that the Clippers aren’t interested in a trade for Kyrie Irving at the moment. The team has long been focused on improving on the margins and running it back. A roster-changing move like a potential Kyrie Irving trade doesn’t appear to be something the team is interested in barring an offer they simply can’t refuse.

For over a year, the Clippers have been convinced they can win a championship with their current core when healthy. They went out and acquired Norman Powell and Robert Covington in a heist of a trade with the Portland Trail Blazers at the 2022 trade deadline. They feel now, more than ever, ready to compete for a championship with their mix of experienced veterans and young players. While Irving is a supremely talented player, he comes with a hefty price tag and a dangerous track record.

On the flip side, the Irving situation has continued to appear to be a public leverage play, with Kyrie looking to create options for himself in trade situations in an attempt to put pressure on the Brooklyn Nets to give him the deal he desires. Irving has until June 29 to decide on the $36.9 million player option he has for the 2022-23 NBA season.

In addition to that leverage Irving is trying to muster up, multiple reports stated that Kevin Durant is eyeing the situation and considering his own options. At the end of the day, losing Irving could also mean losing Durant, and that’s something Brooklyn absolutely cannot afford.

Lastly, the Nets traded seemingly all of their picks to the Houston Rockets in the James Harden trade, while a few are pick swaps. Yet another reason Brooklyn will likely cough up the long-term deal for Irving, allowing he and Durant to continue chasing a championship:

The Clippers will continue to monitor the trade market and keep an eye on what happens moving forward. At this stage, however, the team’s highest priorities are to re-sign Nicolas Batum and Isaiah Hartenstein in free agency.