Kyrie Irving is one of the NBA's most polarizing players, and that is with good reason. Aside from his box office play on the court, Kyrie is a player who moves on his own accord. After three seasons as a Brooklyn Net and 103 games played, Irving and the Nets front office are looking to part ways.
None of us could have seen this coming. No matter how unpredictable Irving has been over the years, this news came as a surprise to many NBA fans. Playing for his favorite team as a child alongside one of his best friends should be enough to keep him satisfied. It never really is that simple though. The fact is this is more than just basketball, it's a business. Money is always at the forefront. The Nets deciding not to offer Irving a fully guaranteed max contract extension was the wedge that separated both sides when it was all said and done.
What Does Kyrie Want?
After not getting the max contract extension he desired, Irving turned in a list of teams that he wants a sign and trade to. The Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks, Miami Heat, and Dallas Mavericks are on that list. The only thing is none of these teams have the cap space to sign him unless the Nets help them through a sign and trade. From the outside looking in, I can only assume that many of these teams on his list want nothing to do with him.
Kyrie Irving has built quite a bad reputation among the numerous executives around the league. In many of their eyes, he is a player giving a part-time commitment while demanding a full-time salary. No matter how much of a bucket Irving is, being available is the most important thing. It is hard to see teams such as the Heat, Clippers, and Mavericks commit to a sign and trade for a player that isn't likely to play 60 games in a season. 20, 54, and 29. Those are the number of games Kyrie played in the last three seasons as a Net. If it wasn't injuries, it was his refusal to comply with the vaccine mandate that had him sitting down in street clothes. Imagine taking a gamble on that. Who would take a gamble on that?
What Are His Options?
Irving has until Wednesday, June 29th to decide whether he is opting into his player option for the fourth year of the max contract he signed back in 2019. If he opts in he will be getting paid almost $37 million and enter unrestricted free agency the following summer.
All the cards are on Irving's side if you ask me. If he opts in he gets paid and gets to give it one more shot with his good friend, Kevin Durant. After getting swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics, you would imagine that Durant and Irving are itching to get back and contend for a championship. Not only will the Nets have a better team with the likes of Ben Simmons joining the squad and Joe Harris making his return; Kyrie will be able to play during the season sans vaccine. With these possibilities, Irving shouldn't be in such a hurry to leave. When success comes that max contract extension will follow. He has to earn the trust of the franchise before anything.
If Irving opts out and enters unrestricted free agency, the ball will no longer be in his court. The teams and contenders he has his eyes on do not have enough cap space to offer him the money he is worth. His best hope would be a sign and trade deal. As of now, it seems like the Lakers are the only team seriously considering making a push to acquire Irving. The big question is how will the Lakers and Nets figure out a way to make this deal without either side getting fleeced. Irving reuniting with LeBron James is something that can be promising. Their partnership in the past provided success but was also ended prematurely by a disgruntled Irving. The idea of this happening is wishful thinking for Lakers fans. We have seen many bizarre things happen during free agency, this year won't be any different.
Through all of the drama and headlines that followed Kyrie Irving, the Brooklyn Nets were always the ones suffering with Kevin Durant. When Irving refused to get vaccinated and missed 53 games during the season, the Nets lost games and failed to form continuity. Durant was overworked and added more miles to his body. James Harden grew frustrated and forced his way out of Brooklyn. The Nets fell to the seventh seed in the playoffs, where they played against the Boston Celtics and got exploited for their lack of depth and continuity.
Again, Irving's decisions will seriously affect the franchise and Kevin Durant. If he leaves where does that leave the Nets? The Nets gave up everything to sign Irving and Durant a couple of years back and they couldn't have imagined this. Will Durant also ask to leave if Kyrie leaves? The future seems uncertain for all of the parties involved. The Nets need Kyrie to resign just as much as he needs them to make something happen with a sign and trade deal. Only a matter of time before we saw all the dominos fall.