Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving only played 29 games for the franchise this past season after refusing to get the New York City mandated COVID-19 vaccination. The vaccine was was required for him to play home games at Barclays Center. Irving’s reoccurring absences, coupled with the Nets’ lack of on-court success, have all been factors in Brooklyn’s reluctance to offer him a long-term extension.
On June 20, Shams Charania of “The Athletic” reported that Irving and the Nets have hit an “impasse” in contract talks, clearing the way for the All-Star guard to hit the free-agent market. If Irving does elect to part ways with the Nets, the Clippers are among the favorites to land him. It would create a All-Star trio out west of Irving, All-Star Paul George, and 2-time Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.
“For the Clippers, the likely path to get Irving requires him to opt-in, because they are significantly over both the luxury-tax line and the hard cap for 2022-23. To satisfy salary matching, the Clippers would need to send out between $29.3 million and $45.8 million to the Nets and/or a third team if Irving is the only salary headed their way,” Charania writes.
“The Clippers’ scenario is less complicated than the Lakers, as the Clippers have a series of players making $11 million to $17 million to work with. For example, two or three of Norman Powell, Marcus Morris, Luke Kennard and Reggie Jackson going out satisfies the CBA’s trade rules, and they also have a collection of young players like Terrance Mann or Brandon Boston who could help sweeten the deal.”
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Kyrie’s Exit Would Be ‘Incredibly Damaging’
The Nets inked Irving in 2019 with the hopes that he and Kevin Durant would be cornerstone pieces of the franchise for the foreseeable future. But after three seasons, and no appearances in the conference finals, his time in Brooklyn could already be in its final stages. Charania says that having to part ways with Irving would be ‘incredibly damaging” to the franchise.
“A potential Irving departure would be incredibly damaging to the Nets because of their limited ability to replace him and his salary slot should Irving sign elsewhere as a free agent. A likelier path to any departure would be via sign-and-trade. Brooklyn owes $111 million to six players in 2022-23, not including Irving, so even filling out the roster with minimum salaries would put the Nets over next season’s projected salary cap of $122 million,” Charania writes.
“If Irving bolts, Brooklyn’s strongest path to adding talent would be the full $10.3 million midlevel exception. Irving is also eligible for a new deal via exercising his player option and extending his contract from there, which could land him a starting salary of $45.2 million for 2023-24.”
Analyst Reports ‘Buzz’ Around Kyrie to Lakers Trade
The Clippers will have some competition if they hope to land Irving, as the Lakers and Knicks are also listed as potential suitors for the star point guard. Joining the Lakers would mean reuniting Kyrie with his former Cleveland Cavaliers teammate LeBron James, who he won a title with in 2016. NBA analyst Bill Simmons recently reported trade buzz surrounding Kyrie reuniting with LeBron on the Lakers.
“There is some Lakers buzz with him, which I’m trying to figure out even how it would happen,” Simmons said during the June 6 episode of the “Bill Simmons Podcast.
“I’m trying to think; A. would Kyrie Irving actually leave the Nets? B. What’s the most money they would pay to keep him? And then C. If they didn’t want to keep him and it was a sign-and-trade scenario, where would he go?”
In the case of Irving, if the Nets can find a way to keep him, by all means, they should. The possibilities are endless with him , Durant, and a healthy Ben Simmons. It will be interesting to see what happens in free agency.