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. Irving’s reoccurring absences and 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 hit an “impasse” in contract talks, clearing the way for the All-Star guard to hit the free-agent market on July 1. Now just a few days later, the NBA Insider updates that Kevin Durant is mulling over his future with the franchise, which clears the way for Kyrie to execute a sign-and-trade out of Brooklyn.
To add insult to injury, Nets owner Joe Tsai liked a tweet from a user, expressing that the team as a whole is more important than any one player.
“Just drove by Sean Marks exit on my way to work. I didn’t see white smoke. But I know that man is cooking. IN SEAN MARKS WE TRUST,” Twitter user @Kristinf34_ wrote in the liked tweet on June 23. “Team and culture > any one player. Excited to get back to Nets basketball.”
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Insider: Durant Won’t Request Trade if Irving Leaves
For the Nets, the decision to not re-sign Irving could have a ripple effect as it could lead to Durant requesting a trade. But despite the earlier report from Charania, ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski says that Irving leaving doesn’t necessarily guarantee a Durant departure.
“I’m told that Kevin Durant has not told the Nets that if Kyrie Irving leaves, that means he’s going to ask for a trade. What Kevin Durant wants to know, like any other star of his stature, that if Kyrie Irving does walk, if he does take that mid-level exception with the Lakers, what would a reconfigured Nets team look like, how they would try to reshape the roster so the Nets would be able to return, in the near term and have a championship contender,” Wojnarowski said during the NBA Draft on June 23.
“And those will certainly be the questions that Kevin Durant is going to have for the Nets. That’s a conversation I believe they have had. You’re always having a conversation with your best player. But I’m told again that Kevin Durant has not told the Nets that if Kyrie Irving leaves, that means he is going to ask for a trade. He’s got four years left on his contract.”
Nets Aware of ‘Affinity’ Kyrie and Durant Have
Irving and Durant chose to join the Nets in 2019 because they wanted to create a new culture in Brooklyn and have a chance to write their legacies. And most importantly, they wanted to do it together. With a potential Irving departure on the horizon, Durant’s commitment has naturally come into play, as the Nets are aware of the ‘affinity’ the two have with and to each other.
“He signed the extension last year, but certainly the Nets are aware of the connection, the affinity that Kevin Durant has for Kyrie Irving,” Wojnarowski added.
“That’s why they have been trying to come up with a deal. It’s a negotiation that meets what Kyrie Irving is willing to do and what the Nets are willing to do. Kevin Durant’s happiness is certainly part of that negotiation.”
With Durant and Kyrie apparently being a packaged deal, letting the All-Star point guard walk in free agency could be a disaster for the Nets.