With the basketball world’s eyes on the nets and their possible superstar split, Kyrie Irving put an end to speculation on Monday.
The seven-time All-Star will opt for his $37 million player option for the 2022-23 season to fulfill his four-year contract signed in 2019, as well as his commitment to the franchise and Kevin Durant, who joined Irving in Brooklyn in the summer of 2019 Even as Durant seriously considered his future with the franchise, sources say Irving sidestepped several scenarios in which he could have gone ahead with his deal and acted before Wednesday’s opt-in deadline.
Irving is returning to Brooklyn, and should owner Joe Tsai and general manager Sean Marks decide to push back the big three Durant, Irving and Ben Simmons, the Nets have an opportunity to contend for a championship. However, since the season-ending win over the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs without Simmons and Joe Harris and a limping Seth Curry, there have been fundamental problems in those networks. That festered into Irving’s future and the contract talks that led to him deciding to return for next season, and most recently whether Durant’s valuation of the franchise might push him away.
Irving’s agent Shetellia Riley Irving and the Nets front office have had lengthy and productive discussions about the extension over the past six days, with sources on both sides reporting good faith negotiations to reach a new deal. The Nets and Shetellia Riley Irving worked through various proposals, including a two-year maximum extension that included incentives based on games played, and a four-year maximum extension that guaranteed two years and triggers for years three and four based on the games played included in years one and two, sources said. Irving showed willingness to accept an incentive-based deal before making a definitive counterattack against the Nets, sources said: a short-term contract extension that protects both sides with a player option. Brooklyn declined.
Durant has publicly claimed that he and Irving would remain friends regardless of the outcome of those negotiations, but the Nets understood their close bond when they struck up a stimulus deal with Irving.
The Nets and Irving came close to an agreement late last week, sources said, before talks stalled.
Sources said Irving has three potential opt-in and trade options that he can pursue before making his final decision. There are only five teams in the entire league with projected salary cap space: Detroit, San Antonio, Orlando, Indiana, and New York, all looking to build on younger players or prioritize other free agents. For their part, the Lakers were much more motivated to sign Irving as a free agent than to acquire the three-time All-NBA guard through trade, sources said. And as Irving went through his opt-in and trade options — as well as the potential to join the Lakers in free hands — the decision to return to Brooklyn crystallized.
The focus now turns to the Nets, players wanting to remain committed to the task at hand and whether Tsai and Marks are able to fix the issues that have caused multiple teams across the league to gravitate towards the prospect prepared for both Durant and Irving to be traded this week. There are real issues that need to be addressed between Nets owners, management and players, multiple sources said, and the Nets could still decide to postpone Irving this offseason or next season. Will Tsai and Marks choose to rebuild and start over – or can all sides restore ties and re-equip the roster around Durant, Irving and Simmons and role-players like Harris, Curry and Nic Claxton?
With teams across the league preparing for Irving’s potential departure, the question is: How will Irving’s decision affect Durant on Monday? The 12-time All-Star has four guaranteed seasons worth nearly $200 million under his contract and signed full max renewal last summer as a mark of his commitment to the Nets. Next season, Brooklyn will also have a healthy Simmons, Harris and Curry, the makings of a title-struggling roster.
Several teams are expected to continue to pursue Irving via trade, but his opt-in is prompting clubs to consider more carefully whether to swap assets in a deal for a player who will enter full free-hand in 2023. Teams across the league understand Irving’s talent and now a full 2022-23 season gives him a chance to prove himself again, then return to the market and earn a maximum contract next summer. Multiple sources with knowledge of his decision said Irving wants to prioritize winning a championship next season and show why he’s one of the league’s best players.
Irving is back in Brooklyn for now. These networks still have serious problems determining the direction of the franchise.
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(Photo above: David Butler II / USA Today)