Nets ‘Unwillingness’ to Extend Kyrie Irving Could Cost Them Kevin Durant: Report

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving

Getty Kevin Durant #7 reacts with Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets after the second half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Barclays Center

The Brooklyn Nets had a roller coaster of a season. Starting sky-high expectations surrounding their big three of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and James Harden. Those expectations were quickly shattered as Kyrie Irving refused to get the Covid-19 vaccine to “be a voice for the voiceless,” despite it making the point guard unable to participate in Nets home games. Irving missing games reportedly frustrated Harden and ultimately contributed to his departure. 

“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,” wrote Kristian Winfield of The New York Daily News

Ultimately Harden was dealt to the Philadelphia 76ers for a package that included Ben Simmons, which led to another roller coaster in Brooklyn with Simmons’ injury battle alone. That battle continued all the way until they were swept in their first round series against the Boston Celtics. 

Now the Nets are left with decisions to make this offseason. First and foremost, they must decide about bringing back their All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, which Winfield had more reporting on

Nets ‘Unwilling’ to Extend Irving Long-Term

“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 will have about a month to decide if he will opt-in to the final year of his contract or test free agency. The guard will likely command something in the four years, $185 million range, and most of the teams that will be in playoff contention do not have the salary-cap space available to make that signing. Other teams will likely have to make moves to reshape their roster to bring him in, complete a sign-and-trade, or find a compromise with the Nets. 

However, the Nets decision with Kyrie could have major ramifications for their star player Kevin Durant. Durant, who has a strong friendship with Irving, could possibly grow frustrated with the Nets if Kyrie was to leave outright. 

Could Durant Grow Frustrated in Brooklyn? 

With the reports of Brooklyn’s unwillingness to sign Irving to a long-term extension, we may finally see the power Durant has in the organization. For a long time, there has been chatter of Durant serving as a shadow GM for the Nets, and if the Nets get a deal done, it likely is evidence of the power Durant has in the organization. Sean Marks, the Nets general manager clarified, saying that the players, while they give input, do not have control of the franchise. But if it doesn’t result in an extension or sign-and-trade it may make things bumpy in Brooklyn. 

If Irving leaves outright as a free agent this summer, disgruntled by the Nets’ hardball stance on his availability, Brooklyn doesn’t have the cap space to replace him with a star, which means Durant, entering Year 16, could be playing with a questionable Ben Simmons (back surgery) and a roster full of role players.

That’s a first-round exit at best – if Durant stays to see it, and according to multiple sources, Durant and the Nets front office have not spoken since they were swept out of the first round.

In layman’s terms, if Irving leaves the Nets, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Durant becomes frustrated with the organization’s ability to put championship pieces around him.” Winfield continued in his reporting. 

What started as the Nets instantly becoming title contenders after acquiring Irving and Durant could end sloppier than anyone anticipated. What the team’s plans are and how they answer the roster’s biggest questions will be answered in a matter of weeks, and every day it seems new possibilities are coming out of the woodwork. 

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