What if Irving gets the big deal and simply retires?
That, according to some familiar with the situation, is a looming fear of the Nets and has caused them to restrict their offers to Irving to relatively short-term deals.
Irving has repeatedly talked about retiring young. A few years ago, he said he hopes to retire in his early-to-mid 30s. He’s now 30.
Irving’s agent reportedly threatened that the guard would retire if the Nets traded him last season. But staying with Brooklyn – his preferred team – is not enough to completely assuage concern. Irving has repeatedly shown he holds priorities other than playing basketball for the Nets.
Most infamously, Irving refused to get vaccinated, which would’ve allowed him to meet New York City’s vaccine mandate and play home games last season. In fairness, Irving dismissed retirement speculation early in the saga. He also just expressed enthusiasm about returning to Brooklyn next season.
But Irving is volatile enough that the Nets have reason to be concerned.
If Irving chooses not to play (another way of saying retire in this situation), he almost certainly won’t get paid. The Ben Simmons precedent shows that. (Though arbitration is pending, Simmons’ case is that he mentally and/or physically couldn’t play. If Simmons acknowledges that he simply chose not to play, he will almost certainly lose his grievance.)
However, it’s unclear when Brooklyn could remove Irving’s salary from their cap sheet if he retires in the midst of his contract and still tries to collect on it. That unprecedented situation could tie up the Nets for years.
Which is why Brooklyn wants to avoid it.