The Nets and Kyrie Irving are no closer to an amicable solution that will keep the superstar in Brooklyn.
In fact, things are trending in the opposite direction: while Nets GM Sean Marks and Superstar forward Kevin Durant have yet to speak this offseason, Irving’s camp has asked and received permission from the Nets to engage in sign-and-trade deals with other teams to speak packets. according to multiple sources familiar with the situation.
A dominant belief in both the league and player circles is that Irving is gone and that the Seven-Eleven era is over before it even begins. Irving appeared in just 103 regular season games at Brooklyn, a three-year run plagued by a nagging shoulder injury in Year 1; in 2nd class due to absenteeism for personal reasons; and in Year 3, because Irving was unwilling to vaccinate against COVID-19 in a city that had introduced an exemption for professional athletes in its immunization mandate just weeks before the start of the NBA playoffs.
As the Daily News reported in late May, the Nets were unwilling to give Irving a long-term contract extension with significant financial guarantees. They don’t think Irving has committed to doing what it takes to be grounded for his teammates every game.
But they don’t have the Cap space to replace Irving if he leaves as a free agent, and the only teams that have the Cap space to sign Irving will need a lot more than the services of the Star Guard when they do want to reach the playoffs fighting alone for a championship.
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Which brings us to a sign-and-trade, and Irving reportedly has six teams on his radar: the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, Heat, 76ers and Mavericks. According to a source, Durant and Westbrook’s reunion in Brooklyn remains unlikely. The Knicks, Mavericks and Heat are the teams with the greatest capacity to strike a deal for Irving, but the Knicks and Mavericks appear to be locked in a bidding war for free agent guard Jalen Brunson.
How good can the Nets be in exchange for the all-star guard whose on-pitch productivity has often been hampered by off-pitch events? If the Nets can’t get a star in exchange for Irving’s services or assemble a championship-caliber team around Durant (and Ben Simmons), Durant — who recently signed a four-year $198 million extension — can request a trade.
In other words, it remains unclear whether or not Durant intends to remain a net when the front office essentially kicks his co-star out of town. In a recent podcast appearance, The Ringer’s Logan Murdock, who developed a relationship with Durant while he was a member of the Golden State Warriors and traveled with the Nets for two weeks last season to do a profile on the Nets star Durant “feels like the front office didn’t understand Kyrie.”
That came a week after the Celtics swept the Nets out of the first round of the playoffs. Fresh from that Game 4 loss, Irving took to the podium and said he wanted to be a Net long term and “co-manage the franchise with Durant, Marks and Nets owner Joe Tsai.”
Marks came out the following week and told both YES Network and local reporters that the franchise wants players who can commit to the team and be available year-round.
However, Marks also said he’s determined to do whatever it takes to bring a championship to Brooklyn, and judging by his tough stance on Irving, the Nets must have some level of belief that they can do it without him.
That’s a tough sell because Irving, despite his shortcomings, remains one of the most experienced players in NBA history, with him and Durant reigning as one of the most talented duos of all time in their short tenure. The alternative to keeping him in town could be a team that lacks the firepower to take on the elite of the East. And without that firepower, it’s hard to imagine Durant staying on a team that doesn’t stand a title chance, meaning the Nets could return to the street they came from: staying at the end of the conference, On the road to constant rebuilding, the development of young players and the hope that the ping-pong balls will bounce in their favor.