Kyrie Irving did not play a game for the Brooklyn Nets before Jan. 5 — and then was only a part-time player, taking the court for road games — until March 23 due to his choice not to get vaccinated. That set back the Nets’ chemistry and was one of the reasons the Celtics swept the Nets out of the playoffs.
“It was only the journey to enjoy at that point, because I was sitting at home and — I don’t even want to say sitting at home, I was wondering at home what my future was going to look like, you know? Whether I was going to be traded, whether I was going to be released, whether I was going to get the opportunity to be on another team, how I was going to spin this for myself in a positive way.”
The Nets would never just release Irving and eat his salary. That was never on the table.
There are two reasons Irving was never going to be traded, either. First, he was virtually untradable — Irving was on a max contract plus had a player option for next season that allowed him to walk away from any team that traded for him. A team would have had to give up a lot to potentially just rent Irving for the rest of the season. Throw in that he can be unreliable and challenging, and who was going to trade for him?
The bigger reason: Kevin Durant didn’t want him traded. Durant continues to have massive sway in the Nets organization.
Durant has said he and Irving grew closer this season — James Harden was the third wheel until he forced his way out of town — and there was no chance KD would approve a trade. He’s the one who pushed to get Irving back and playing part-time.
Durant is also why the Nets will offer Irving a massive new contract this offseason, which can be for as much as five years, $246 million. Irving has said he does not plan on going anywhere; he will sign the contract.
What the Nets will look like next season will be one of the interesting questions of the offseason, although with Irving full time, Joe Harris back, and Ben Simmons playing games (we assume), they should be better than the Brooklyn team easily dismissed by Boston.
Just know Irving will be back. He was not then and is not now in danger of being released or traded.