Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving will be eligible to sign an extension with the Nets for 4-years, $184 million, or for 5-years, $248 million, this summer. The extension would pay him $42.7 million per year, which would make him the seventh highest-paid player in the NBA. But some people within the Nets organization are wary of if the team should ink the All-Star guard to a long-term extension. Irving only played 29 games for the Nets during the 2022 season because his refusal to get the COVID vaccination made him ineligible to play home games at Barclays Center for most of the year.
Kristian Winfield of the “New York Daily News” says that as it stands now, the Nets are ‘outright unwilling’ to offer Irving a long-term deal extension.
“The Nets’ championship hopes hinge on an amicable solution with Irving, whose personal decision not to get vaccinated and unpredictable injury history have left the Nets hesitant, and now, according to a source familiar with the Nets’ thought process, outright unwilling to give him a long-term extension,” Winfield writes per the New York Daily News.
“Irving played in just 29 games last season, restricted by both New York City’s vaccine mandate and the Nets’ decision not to incorporate him into the rotation for road games until mid-December. The season before, he appeared in only 54 games, missing several stretches for “personal reasons,” and in his first season in Brooklyn, a nagging shoulder injury limited him to only 20 games played.”
The latest Nets news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Nets newsletter here!
Kyrie’s Absence ‘Frustrated’ James Harden
Irving suffered an ankle injury during the Nets’ 2021 playoff run that sidelined him for the remainder of the postseason. The Nets were hoping to get all three of their stars in Irving, Kevin Durant, and James Harden back healthy to compete for a title this season. But Irving was adamant that his decision to not get vaccinated was final, leaving a huge hole in their roster for the first half of the season. Winfield said that Irving’s choice to remain unvaccinated frustrated Harden.
“He refused the COVID-19 vaccine, leaving his teammates hanging, frustrating Harden, and forcing his teammates to play above their means. Had he gotten the jab, three alternate realities are on the table: maybe Harden stays, maybe the Nets go further than a first-round sweep, and maybe Brooklyn’s front office views Irving as reliable and gives him the contract extension he desires,” Winfield continued.
“That, however, doesn’t appear to be on the table, at least not at this juncture of an early offseason. Irving has about a month to make a decision whether or not he will opt into the final year of his contract in Brooklyn or test free agency. The teams that can clear enough cap space to sign him to his max of 35% of the salary cap — four years, upwards of $185M — are not in a position to compete for a deep playoff run.”
Nets GM: Kyrie’s Absence ‘Hurt’ Nets
Throughout the season, Nets general manager Sean Marks affirmed the organization’s support for Kyrie and his choice to remain unvaccinated. But once the season was over, he admitted that Irving’s absence hurt the Nets from a roster-building standpoint.
“It’s a team sport and you need everybody out there on the court. We saw this year when you have, Kevin missed 27 games with injuries and Kyrie being out for over half the season, that hurts. That hurts from a roster-building standpoint,” Marks told reporters on May 11 per Kristian Winfield of the “New York Daily News”.
“That’s not what we planned for. Some are avoidable and other excuses are of individual nature and those are the ones that we have to try and avoid”
Last summer, the Nets had plans to ink Harden, Durant, and Irving to long-term deals. Harden never signed and was ultimately traded to the Sixers. Could Kyrie be the next domino to fall?