The Brooklyn Nets experiment hasn’t panned out thus far. In two trips to the playoffs with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving at the helm, the Nets have not even made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. They have not come close to competing for a title, let alone winning one.
Now Brooklyn faces an even steeper hill to climb in the coming days. Kyrie has until June 29 to opt into his deal or become a free agent this summer. Irving’s sporadic availability has caused the Nets to have reluctance about inking him to a max extension. But ESPN insider Adrian Wojnarowski says that the danger for general manager Sean Marks and the Nets front office is that losing Kyrie could also mean losing Durant.
“The Nets went into this with their eyes open, knowing he could walk. He has done things differently in his career, but I think there is a sweet spot for the Nets and Kyrie Irving to find a deal, and if they don’t, how does that impact Kevin Durant’s future with the Nets. All of that’s at stake this week,” Wojnarowski said during an appearance on ESPN.
The Insider also confirmed that Durant does have an influence on Irving’s contract negotiations saying:
“Kyrie’s best leverage in the pressure Kevin Durant is putting on the organization.”
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Insider: Nets Want Irving Back on ‘Shorter Deal’
The Nets have found themselves in quite a bind with Irving’s expiring contract. They are fighting two battles simultaneously as Irving and Durant appear to be a package deal. So now they have to decide if the good of Durant outweighs the bad of Kyrie. Because cutting ties with one would mean cutting ties with both.
“[The Nets are] navigating two fronts: trying to stay disciplined in their mind on a Kyrie extension. He is a player who has not been as available to them as they’ve wanted last couple of years. Clearly, Brooklyn has been hesitant to do a long-term deal with Irving. but they also run the risk of alienating Kevin Durant and perhaps unfastening him from his commitment of wanting to be in Brooklyn if Kyrie Irving was to leave,” Wojnarowski writes per ESPN.
“The organization clearly wants Irving on a shorter deal, whether it’s his $36 million opt-in for the 2022-23 season — or perhaps an opt-out and new deal that could give him a raise to $42 million annually on a two-year deal.”
Wojnarowski: Durant ‘Contractually Tied’ to Nets
The Nets do have some leverage in this situation. They inked Durant to a 4-year $198 million max extension last summer that kicks in this coming season. But danger still looms, as we have seen max players such as Ben Simmons and James Harden force trades to other teams while still under contract. But technically, whether or not Irving walks, Durant still has a contractual commitment to the Nets until 2026.
“Now, Durant is just starting a four-year extension. So, he’s tied contractually to Brooklyn,” Wojnarowski writes. “In a perfect world, the Nets find a way to do a deal that still gives them some leverage to get Kyrie Irving on the court next season, but certainly, if he’s willing to take significantly less money, he could walk, he could perhaps sign that $6 million exception with the Lakers. That would be a $30 million pay cut but honestly last year, he lost about $17 million for being unvaccinated and out of the Nets lineup.”
The Nets are facing a tough decision as the future of their franchise hangs in the balance. It will be pivotal for them to bring back their star duo if they want to compete for a championship.