Kyrie Irving played only 29 games and missed the first three months of last season because he refused to be vaccinated. The season before that he played in 54 games, missing time in the middle of the season for “personal reasons” following the Jan. 6 insurrection. He played 20 games the season before that — his first in Brooklyn — due to a shoulder injury.
Given that history, how many years do the Nets want to re-sign Irving for?
In the coming weeks, Irving is expected to turn down his $36.9 million player option for next season, making him a free agent, although he said he “doesn’t plan on going anywhere.” The sides are expected to work out a new deal. The Nets can offer him a four-year, $190 million max contract (that aligns with Kevin Durant‘s extension) or a five-year, $245 million max deal.
However, the Nets are thinking shorter term, not wanting to commit to Irving long term, reports Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News.
This is why, as I’ve already written, the Nets’ championship hopes hinge on an amicable solution with Irving, whose personal decision not to get vaccinated and unpredictable injury history have left the Nets hesitant, and now, according to a source familiar with the Nets’ thought process, outright unwilling to give him a long-term extension.
There is no easy answer here. It’s about the years and the commitment to the team, not the money — Irving is unquestionably a max player. Brooklyn GM Sean Marks said at his end-of-season press conference, “We need people here that want to be here. They’re selfless that want to be part of something bigger than themselves.” He wants a commitment he feels he hasn’t seen from Irving.
From his side, Irving isn’t signing a one-year contract, and probably not two years. How many years is the question, and are their team or player options at the end of it?
The Nets need to find an answer that works for everyone — they need Irving to contend. Kevin Durant is an All-NBA/MVP level player when healthy but can’t carry the entire load all season, and he’ll need another elite shot-creator in the postseason. What can the Nets bank on getting out of Ben Simmons? There are a lot of good role players on the roster — Joe Harris, Patty Mills, they likely re-sign Nicolas Claxton — but Irving is the second transcendent star, the guy with elite handles who can create shots out of nothing.
If Irving walks in free agency (which is unlikely), the Nets can’t simply replace him with another star, they would still be right up against the salary cap. A sign-and-trade is not going to bring back anywhere close to equal talent.
Irving needs the Nets. The Nets need Irving. The two sides need to figure out a new contract that gets everyone on the same page — and fully committed. Do that, and the Nets are contenders next season, but we’re all going to have to see that commitment first. From everyone in a Nets jersey.