Surging from the back of the pack, the Brooklyn Nets have positioned themselves to be buyers at the trade deadline this year. Suggestions have included additional wing depth or a more offensive-minded big man.
Few if any think pieces have the Nets shipping pieces out; a stark change from this summer and even the beginning of the campaign.
There are questions, though.
What happens if the good vibes don’t continue? Kevin Durant is still otherworldly at 34 years old. But both he and Ben Simmons, 26, have extensive serious injury histories with each missing an entire season within the last four years. While the Nets’ third star, Kyrie Irving, is also no stranger to the training table, his future is clouded by something else.
KAI in H-Town?
The last several months have seen Irving have a standoff with the front office over his contract. He eventually opted into the final year of his deal but what happens after that has been a matter of speculation. Irving is set to be an unrestricted free agent and, while there were talks of him landing in Los Angeles with the Lakers but those talks have since died down.
ESPN NBA insider Zach Lowe offered another possibility.
“If you look at this summer’s free agents, it’s like, Kyrie,” said Lowe with a grimace about potential options for the Houston Rockets during the December 27 episode of ‘The Lowe Post’ podcast. “I wouldn’t rule anything out with Kyrie or the Houston Rockets.”
The mercurial Irving is averaging 25.6 points on 62.6% true shooting since returning from an eight-game suspension. Brooklyn is 10-3 with him in the lineup since then after going 2-6 to start the year.
Lowe’s guest, colleague Tim McMahon, interjected that he would not totally rule out Irving being of interest to the young Rockets team either. McMahon previously reported that Houston is still not completely sold on Kevin Porter Jr. as a starting-caliber point guard. They have been linked to former Rockets and Nets star James Harden.
Harden is rumored to have been eyeing a return since he left two-plus seasons ago.
But Irving could be available without the Rockets having to sacrifice any of their promising young pieces which could make things interesting for Nets general manager Sean Marks.
Winning Solves [Almost] Everything
The Nets clawed their way back from the brink of disaster avoiding another complete roster overhaul. That should continue as long as they maintain this new level of focus that has them locked in on basketball and entertaining little else.
Winning could also be the ticket to Irving inking a long-term deal to stay in Brooklyn.
Irving said he forfeited a “four-year, $100-and-something million” offer with his decision to remain unvaccinated, per Scooby Axson of USA Today. He also had his endorsements canceled including his shoe deal with Nike. And there is a strong possibility that he never lands another major endorsement deal in his career.
Earning a new contract in Brooklyn could represent Irving’s best shot at recouping some of the money he has lost in the past few months. Otherwise, surprising teams such as the Rockets could find the room to bring in such a prolific scorer.