In what amounted to a showdown between Kyrie Irving and the Nets, his employer won. With Brooklyn unwilling to give him a maximum long-term contract and Irving unable to secure one elsewhere, he settled down and opted for the final year of his contract.
The Nets avoided the nuclear option of Irving’s departure and potentially enticed Kevin Durant to do the same. But just because the team hasn’t been dragged over the cliff doesn’t mean they’re not on the precipice yet.
Although both Irving and Durant are under contract – Irving for the upcoming season at $36.5 million, Durant starting a four-year extension – the question arises: are they unhappy? Because Brooklyn learned the hard way what Boston already knew: an unhappy Irving is a dangerous Irving.
“I feel bad for these guys, that they have to deal with him,” a league source told the Post.
Irving could still leave next summer or sign an extension at any time or even force his exit via trade. Will the Nets really stand their ground against Irving for the first time, will they leave him angered or chastised?
From the time Irving arrived, Brooklyn had acquiesced in every prior demand, from signing DeAndre Jordan to his personal leave to filing a four-year, $181 million maximum deal until this that he refuses to be vaccinated. And after telling Irving he couldn’t be a part-time player, they even gave in on it.
“I’m not sure I would have handled it that way,” another league source told The Post. “They basically told him they didn’t trust him. What I get: He is not trustworthy. But telling him he can’t be a part-time player will [anger him]. I wouldn’t sign everyone they want, but I would just [praise him] in public. He needs this.
If on the outside it looks like the Nets don’t trust him, well, looks aren’t deceiving. After watching him miss 130 games (including the playoffs and play-ins), general manager Sean Marks and owner Joe Tsai refused to give him the maximum extension he sought.
Brooklyn and Irving’s agent/mother-in-law, Shetellia Riley Irving, exchanged proposals that included the type of language previously reported in The Post: a four-year contract with the latter two triggered by games played in the two first seasons, and a two-year extension with incentives based on games played. According to The Athletic, Irving’s camp made a short-term counter-offer which the Nets rejected.
Irving threatened to flee for nothing, riding on the specter of Durant demanding a trade if he did. But after the Nets called his bluff and gave him permission to look for a sign and a trade, Irving found his market lukewarm at best.
In the end, Irving opted to, rather than take a $30 million pay cut to reunite with LeBron James in Los Angeles. Instead, he tracked down Durant in Brooklyn.
For the moment.
With Irving under contract, the Nets could still move him. It wouldn’t require a sign-and-trade, which would have hardly capped any team to get it.
The catch is that there’s little demand for Irving, and moving him around for actors would be counter-intuitive. Although Durant never told Brooklyn he would ask if Irving left, upsetting him at this point would be unwise. Durant has yet to have substantive discussions with Marks and Tsai about how to build this team going forward.
A disgruntled Irving could be counterproductive to that end.
He can agree to an extension anytime between now and June 30, 2023, they’ll just have to wait until July 6 to sign it.
The All-Star posted a video of North Dakota on Tuesday, his first comments since joining.
“It’s a big moment in my spiritual journey, being present enough to understand that it’s not me doing all this. At this point, I’m being pushed in certain directions,” Irving said, adding, “You can’t be afraid to make mistakes, privately or out in the open. The mistakes you make, you have to learn from.
He didn’t know what mistakes he was talking about. But one thing he’s learned is that he’s going to have to win whatever contract he wants, whether it’s in Brooklyn or anywhere else.