After weeks of speculation surrounding his future, Brooklyn Nets superstar Kyrie Irving has opted for his $36.5 million (A$53 million) player option for the 2022-23 NBA season.
That means Irving will remain a Nets player…for now at least.
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The move effectively pockets the $36 million he otherwise wouldn’t be guaranteed to make on the open market.
And that means Irving will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season and free to sign wherever he wants.
So what does this mean for Brooklyn, its stars, and what could happen next? We’ve covered the state of play below.
WHY DID HE REGISTER?
To be frank, there just wasn’t a market for the seven-time All-Star, who has been thrust into constant drama throughout his career, including being ineligible to play home games in New York. last season due to his vaccination status.
Irving put a list of teams to the Nets he wanted to join in a sign and trade, but the Lakers were ultimately the only real suitor before nothing came of it.
With the Nets unwilling to give Irving a long-term extension, it was basically a $37 million or leave it scenario, where he’s now likely to have more options at the end. end of next season.
“The Brooklyn Nets really had a lot of power in that situation, unless Kyrie didn’t want to sign up and go sign mid-tier somewhere and lose $35 million in one season,” the former coach said. NBAAvery Johnson. First take.
“It’s about who has influence and power. And in this situation, his market was very, very small.
“Even for a team like the Lakers… they’ve got another year with Russell Westbrook and then they’ll have a lot more flexibility – and Kyrie as well if he can play in 85-90% of the games – which he historically hasn’t. did not.
“He will have more of a market, and some of the teams waiting on the sidelines probably thought they could get him for a better price on a shorter contract.”
It was even rumored that Irving was ready to walk away from his deal with the Nets and take a seismic pay cut to team up with LeBron James and Anthony Davis at the Lakers.
Ultimately, his options were to play for the Lakers for $6 million or return to the Nets for $36 million.
“They (Brooklyn) called his bluff. It was a chicken game and he blinked,” Fox Sports’ Chris Broussard said on Sports Radio Fox.
(The Nets’ position was) “You think we’re going to wrap it up and give you the max extension and we think you’re going to wrap it up and play for that $36 million.” And he gave in.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE NETS?
Irving’s option puts the Nets above the luxury slated for 2022-23 and thus limits their flexibility to make other roster moves.
It comes as the Nets have just seven players under contract for next season – Irving, Kevin Durant, Ben Simmons, Joe Harris, Seth Curry, Cam Thomas and Day’Ron Sharpe, with Patty Mills giving up her option to become an agent free. .
Along with Mills, Bruce Brown, Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, LaMarcus Aldridge and Nic Claxton are all free agents.
And yet, even with so many free agents, Irving’s option limits the team to using a $6.4 million mid-level exception to add outside free agents.
It should also be noted that all four Brooklyn centers are out of contract, while there is a need for 3-and-D role players.
ESPN’s Kevin Pelton named Nicholas Batum, Otto Porter and TJ Warren as potential options to target with their mid-level exception.
At his season-ending press conference, Nets general manager Sean Marks admitted the team couldn’t afford to “go back” with the same roster.
“You would like versatile people,” Marks said, according to CBS Sports.
“You would like people who can play multiple positions and so on. I think we look at some of the teams that are playing now, I mean, they have 6-10 point guards. They have, you know, Golden State has a – I don’t want to hit Draymond (Green), but what is he, a 6-7 center?
“We’ve been proud in the past to find players with a chip on their shoulder, with resilience, with something to prove,” he said. “We will have to come back to this. We’re going to have to go back a bit more to development, to look more to find the right characteristics of a player who fits in here.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR DURANT AND SIMMONS?
Just four months ago, the Nets and Sixers rocked the NBA landscape with the blockbuster trade Simmons for James Harden.
Despite Harden’s loss, it was still a winning decision by the Nets to place Simmons (who is under contract until 2024/2025) alongside Irving and Durant (under contract until 2024/2025) to form a great new-look team, albeit a trio that has yet to share the pitch together.
Simmons’ main focus right now will simply be to get healthy and let his form on the pitch do the talking after coming under intense scrutiny over the past year.
But we also know that amid the speculation surrounding Irving’s future over the past week, there has been talk of Durant also weighing his options in a potential sign that without Irving, the two-time NBA champion might not want to stay with the Nets.
After all, when Durant joined Irving at the Nets in late 2019, it would have been in the hopes of bringing in more stars, not losing them.
But the Nets are now caught in something of a flux after falling well short of the title in each of the past two seasons with arguably the most talented roster in the league.
And they suddenly risk losing all three of Harden, Irving and Durant in the space of 18 months and returning to a rebuild, although the latter would command a big return package in a trade.
“Right now there’s a calm, the storm is probably still at sea and hasn’t arrived yet,” Bobby Marks told ESPN.
“I think as long as Irving is still on that list, I don’t see him (Durant) asking right now. I think he definitely wants to know what the future will be, if it will be clear that Kyrie Irving will come out and let him walk next offseason. I think that’s probably the most important question Durant is going to have.
“I think eventually there will be a meeting of minds with everyone here. From the property to the front office to Irving and Durant. To bring them into the room and determine, ‘what are we trying to accomplish here?’
“We traded Simmons for James Harden. On paper, at least, this is a potentially championship-worthy roster when healthy. (Ask) ‘Do we all want to throw it out the window and rebuild here?’
“I think that’s what’s going to have to happen in the next two weeks here, get everyone on the same page.”
As Avery Johnson pointed out, Durant hasn’t gotten a buyout from Irving since teaming up with him.
“Durant has invested a lot in this relationship. He invested a lot in terms of equity and capital in terms of what he did on the pitch,” he said.
“He was there for this team. But his Batman from Robin to Durant hasn’t been there regularly enough – they’ve only played in two handfuls of matches together. That’s not why Durant signed up.
WHY AN IRVING EXCHANGE IS STILL ON THE CARDS
Don’t rule out an Irving move just yet.
The superstar guard could still be traded, with Athletic’s Shams Charania reporting that “multiple teams” are expected to continue to pursue Irving via trade.
Among those teams could be the LA Lakers, as talk of a trade for Russell Westbrook will seemingly never go away. But would that make sense for Brooklyn?
Charlotte is another team touted as a landing spot to help it out of Gordon Hayward’s big payday.
The Sixers were surprisingly on Irving’s roster of teams he would be willing to join by sign-and-trade despite Harden’s move to the Eastern Conference rival. They have a clear trump card in securing a Tobias Harris deal, but bringing Harden and Irving together would seem odd.
While you’d expect Irving to return to the Nets as the franchise prepares for one last run with him and Durant, the NBA is an unpredictable landscape.
“Right now I think we’re in a holding pattern when it comes to the future,” Marks said.
“He could still be traded – he has no no-trade clause. This opens up the landscape for all 29 teams if there is a trade for Brooklyn.
“If you’re a team, what are you really willing to give up for a year for Irving? are you going to give up two actors to have it? Maybe.
“But it comes back to the same question. Why would Brooklyn take back extra pay when it might trigger a Durant decision?