Swanson: The Kyrie Irving dream could’ve been a nightmare for Lakers

LOS ANGELES — Russell Westbrook has never looked as good in purple and gold as he has this past week – and it has almost nothing to do with how well he’s been playing.

Meanwhile, the point guard so many Lakers fans wanted to see in L.A. this season has been busy willfully burying himself beneath an avalanche of criticism after he promoted an antisemitic movie on social media last week.

Even if it never seemed practical for the Lakers to try to make a trade that would send out Westbrook so they could bring in Kyrie Irving, the rumored move had Lakers fans dreaming.

A better-shooting point guard who had already won a title alongside LeBron James in Cleveland? And in place of the ill-fitting Westbrook? Yes, fans said. Yes, please.

Be careful what you wish for. Be glad you don’t always get what you want.

You didn’t want Irving.

As the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, I’m loathe to add oxygen to the raging inferno in Brooklyn; I have zero desire to promote the movie or the now-Amazon-chart-topping antisemitic book on which it’s based.

Reasonable people don’t need me to tell them what’s wrong about amplifying antisemitic views. Those who want to deny the genocide of 6 million Jews, well, they’re not going to care what Vera Meyer Ricard’s granddaughter writes.

But I’ve been thinking a lot about my mom’s mom, my Dutch Jewish oma – “Amo,” I called her – who “dove” into hiding on Nov. 9, 1942, when she was 24.

She stayed hidden for the next 2½ years, existing quietly with a few others behind a faux bookcase in Amsterdam, a 10-minute walk from where Anne Frank and her family were hiding.

My Amo had tried to persuade her parents and sister to join her, but they thought the risk of running was too dangerous. She knew better: “I myself was certain that I would not let myself be led to the slaughtering table like a lamb,” she wrote in a family memoir.

Eight days after she left, her family was removed from their home; her parents died at Auschwitz and her sister, Ruth, at an extermination camp called Sobibor.

Every time I talked to my Amo about this and tried to express my heartbreak for her plight, she’d stop me. I wasn’t to feel sorry for her: “I’m one of the lucky ones,” she’d repeat. “I’m alive.”

And every time we talked about it, she’d also impress on me how dangerous it was to discriminate against any group of people. Her message: “You cannot condemn a whole people.”

But you can condemn dangerous, disrespectful ideas that do seek to condemn a whole people, and thankfully James has the good sense to do so.

“I don’t condone any hate, to any kind to any race, to the Jewish community, Black communities, Asian communities, you know where I stand,” said James, who along with business partner Maverick Carter recently decided not to air the episode of “The Shop” on which rapper Ye (formerly Kanye West) reportedly continued to reiterate his recent antisemitic comments.

“It was hate conversation going on there, and I don’t represent that, there’s no place in this world for it and nobody can benefit from that,” James continued Friday night after their game against Utah. “I believe what Kyrie did caused some harm to a lot of people.”

“I don’t condone any hate. To any kind, any race…What Kyrie did caused some harm to a lot of people…I don’t respect it.”

LeBron James on the drama surrounding former running mate Kyrie Irving

(via @michaelcorvoNBA)

— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) November 5, 2022

James also said he loves the guy and hopes he understands the harm he caused, pointing out that Irving has since apologized (that came on Instagram on Thursday, after he was suspended at least five games by the Nets).

And it turns out Irving’s ongoing imbroglio has taught James something too: How to mute people tweeting harmful things, and not just for a few days. “The type of (stuff) I’ve seen on my Twitter these days, it’s forever.”

The Lakers better be paying close attention to what type of dangerous game Irving likes to play.

I don’t know if the Lakers will be inclined to use their potentially formidable salary cap space next offseason on Irving, the seven-time All-Star who is a near-40% career 3-point shooter with one of the game’s most exquisite handles. Don’t know if they’ll be tempted to make a move for him sooner – though Westbrook, it would seem, is doing what he can to actively dissuade that.

He’s turning it around on the court, turning it on. He’s even been game to come off the bench, bringing energy and flash and aggression – making the most of his new stagger with James. In the past three games, he’s averaging 19 points on 58.3% shooting, including 46.2% (6 for 13) from 3-point range. He even got “M-V-P!” chants Friday!

What’s more, he’s been doing right by the organization off the court, too. He showed up at Summer League in support of the Lakers’ youngsters. He was there at Coach Darvin Ham’s introductory news conference and the one for his former nemesis-turned-teammate Patrick Beverley.

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What hasn’t he done? Link himself to antisemitic propaganda. Balk at the league’s health and safety guidelines in the midst of a pandemic, and then have to miss most of his team’s home games because of it. His jumper has looked flat, but I’ve never heard him mention that he thinks the world is.

He hasn’t done anything to possibly irreparably damage his reputation, or his team’s – or the league’s.

Irving, meanwhile, reportedly won’t return messages from his boss, Nets owner Joe Tsai.

He will feel entitled to ask for what he wants, like this past summer when he came up with a list of teams he wanted Brooklyn to work with on a sign-and-trade with – including the Lakers and Clippers.

Shortly after that, Lawrence Frank, the Clippers’ president of basketball operations, signaled that would be a non-starter with his organization. He didn’t mention Irving specifically, but everyone in the room knew who he was talking about.

“People use buzzwords like culture,” Frank said. “It’s all about your people. Your people create your culture.”

When it comes to Irving, be careful what you wish for.

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