Irving opts into 2022-23 with Nets
Brooklyn point guard set to receive $36.5 million next year
Nets guard Kyrie Irving is staying right here in Brooklyn.
For now, that is.
Despite reaching a reported “impasse” in long-term contract negotiations, the mercurial playmaker has opted in to his $36.5 million option year for the 2022-23 campaign, leaving the Nets to ponder how they will either unload him via a trade or try yet again to win an NBA title with their dynamic duo.
Though he hasn’t weighed in on the process by which Irving found himself on the outside looking in at a five-year, $245 million pact, Kevin Durant might be on his way out of the Downtown scene as well if the Nets orchestrate a deal that will send Irving packing.
But that is still to be decided, as is Irving’s ultimate fate.
“Normal people keep the world going, but those who dare to be different lead us into tomorrow,” Irving told The Athletic Monday.
“I’ve made my decision to opt in. See you in the fall. A11even.”
If Irving and the Nets had reached a long-term agreement, team owner Joe Tsai and general manager Sean Marks would have been able to swap him to a willing partner.
An ESPN report indicated that the Los Angeles Lakers were the only team interested in acquiring Irving, who averaged 27.4 points in only 29 regular-season games last season before the Nets were swept by eventual Eastern Conference champion Boston in the first round of the playoffs.
Irving insisted immediately thereafter that Brooklyn would remain his home, if, of course, the Nets were eager to bring him back.
“I don’t really plan on going anywhere,” the seven-time NBA All-Star said. “When I say I’m here with Kevin, I think that really entails us managing the franchise alongside Joe and Sean.”
Marks said in May that the Nets were “looking for guys who wanted to come in here and be a part of something bigger than themselves, play selfless, play team basketball and be available.”
Thus far, Irving has only been available for 103 regular-season games during his three seasons here after he and Durant came together to build their own dream team in Brooklyn in the summer of 2019.
Irving was unavailable for home games at Barclays Center last season due to New York City’s COVID-19 protocols until Mayor Eric Adams eased restrictions, allowing the high-scoring playmaker to return to Brooklyn in March.
But after boasting the Eastern Conference’s best record on Jan. 22, the Nets, sans Durant due to a knee injury and minus Irving at Barclays due to his non-vaxx status, lost 14 of 17 games.
James Harden was carrying the load for most of that stretch as the Nets plummeted in the standings.
They settled for the No. 7 seed after Harden forced a trade-deadline deal to Philadelphia, but Brooklyn also finished far short of championship expectations in the postseason for the second straight year.
“I think it was just really heavy emotionally this season,” Irving said after the season ended with a Game 4 loss to Boston.
“We all felt it. I felt like I was letting the team down at a point where I wasn’t able to play,” he added. “We were trying to exercise every option for me to play, but I never wanted it to just be about me. And I think it became a distraction at times.”
Irving has been a distraction throughout his career here in Brooklyn after tumultuous stops in Cleveland Boston.
He has also been one of the most exciting and productive players in the sport, winning an NBA title alongside LeBron James in 2016 with the Cavaliers and putting up a franchise-record 60 points for the Nets vs. Orlando on March 15.
His enigmatic presence will either result in our borough’s first major pro sports championship since 1955, or be viewed as one of the key factors in the Nets’ rebuilding process beginning again if he and Durant wind up elsewhere.
“Sometimes I feel like the noise on the external world, the outside noise, can seep in,” Irving noted.
“I’m not the type of person to allow that to happen, so as we build together as a squad, I just think we need to be tougher mentally and just more honest about what we want to accomplish. And just stick to the goal, stick to the mission.”
Tsai and Marks will ultimately have more to do with exactly what that mission is going forward.
They’ll also have to decide if the Nets’ goals can be reached with Irving here in Brooklyn.
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