With NBA free agency set to start next week, Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets are reportedly at an “impasse” in talks about his future with the franchise. Coming off a disappointing season all around, where do both sides go from here?
Is Kyrie Irving’s Time Up in Brooklyn?
Kyrie Irving’s three-year stint with the Nets has often been marred by controversy more than anything else. Irving played only 20 games in his first season in Brooklyn. Despite being out for the rest of the season, he made more headlines during the NBA’s Covid pause when he advocated against the season resuming, vaguely telling his fellow players, “something smells a little fishy.”
Irving returned to play 54 of 72 games in 2020-21, but an ankle injury suffered in the playoffs ultimately derailed the Nets’ title hopes. Irving’s refusal to receive the Covid-19 vaccine the next offseason seemed to rub many in the organization the wrong way. New York City mandates forced Irving to sit out this past season until December, when injuries forced the Nets to bring him back only for road games, and he wasn’t able to play every night until the mandate was adjusted in March.
By then, it seemed to be too late for the Nets. After James Harden was traded to Philadelphia in February, The Athletic reported there was a “weird vibe” between Harden and Irving, adding that Irving was “eager” to see Harden traded. Irving might have been happier without Harden in the picture, but Brooklyn simply wasn’t talented enough to win a championship after the deal, getting swept out of the first round by the Celtics.
It wasn’t hard to see today’s news coming. Nets GM Sean Marks wouldn’t commit to re-signing Irving last month, telling the media he was looking for players who want to “be part of something bigger than themselves, play selfless, play team basketball, and be available.” That was more than just a veiled shot at Irving. Irving holds a $36.9M player option for next season, but even for how polarizing he is, he can easily get that kind of money in free agency. Whether he returns to Brooklyn comes down to two questions: Do the Nets want to keep him at max money, and does Irving want to stay?
Who’s Interested in Kyrie Irving?
There’s no denying Kyrie Irving’s talent. The 7-time all-star was ridiculously good when he was available during the regular season, averaging 30.5 points and shooting 47.8% from the field over his final 17 games. Irving’s 60-point explosion against Orlando might’ve been the most dominant single-game performance by any player this season.
Every team would have reservations about signing Irving, but those reservations will largely be outweighed by his talent. The Athletic reports the Lakers, Clippers, and Knicks could all have interest in Irving, though both LA teams would need to work out a sign-and-trade to create enough space. Reuniting Irving and LeBron James would be a dream come true for the Lakers, whose acquisition of Russell Westbrook last summer just didn’t work out. Meanwhile, acquiring Irving would make the Clippers title favorites with a new big three.
Would Irving be willing to stay in New York, where vaccine mandates kept him out of the lineup for half of this past season? The Knicks did show interest in Irving three years ago, albeit with a different regime, and have had some success in the meantime. If he really wanted to stick it to the Nets, that’s a way to do it.
It’s tough to find many teams who can create enough cap space for Irving, but what about the Mavericks? If they let Jalen Brunson walk and make some other moves, might Mark Cuban pursue a second star to play alongside Luka Doncic? In an offseason without too much star power on the open market, Irving might be Dallas’ only chance to make a major splash.