In what was a stare-down between Kyrie Irving and the Nets, his employer won. With Brooklyn not wanting to give him a max long-term deal and Irving unable to get one elsewhere, he settled down and opted for the final year of his contract.
Nets avoided the nuclear option of leaving Irving and possibly pushing Kevin Durant to do the same. But just because a team hasn’t been dragged over a cliff doesn’t mean it’s still on the cliff.
Although Irving and Durant are under contract — Irving for next season at $36.5 million, and Durant starting a four-year extension — there is a question looming: Are they unhappy? Because Brooklyn learned the hard way what Boston already knew: an unhappy Irving is a dangerous Irving.
“I feel bad for those guys out there, that they have to deal with,” a league source told The Post.
Irving could still leave next summer, sign an extension at any time, or even force him out through a trade. Will the net really hold up against Irving, the first time he’s left, will he get pissed off or punished?
From the moment Irving arrived, Brooklyn agreed to every previous request, from signing DeAndre Jordan to his personal leave to offering a four-year deal worth a maximum of $181 million until he refused to vaccinate. And after telling Irving he couldn’t be a part-time player, they even gave in.
Another league source told the newspaper: “I’m not sure I would have handled it that way.” “They basically told him they didn’t trust him. What I got: He’s untrustworthy. But telling him he can’t be a part-time player will do. [anger him]. I won’t sign with everyone who wants it, but I’ll just do it [praise him] in public. He needs it.”
If outwardly the Nets don’t trust him, well, appearance isn’t deceiving. After watching him miss 130 games (including playoffs and playoffs), GM Shawn Marks and owner Joe Tsai refused to give him the full maximum extension he sought.
Brooklyn’s agent and Irving’s/stepmother Shetlia Riley Irving switched proposals that included the type of language previously reported in The Post: a four-year deal with the last two seasons powered by matches played in the first two seasons, and a two-year extension with incentives based. Games played. According to The Athletic, Irving’s camp made a short-term counter-offer that the Nets turned down.
Irving threatened to run away for nothing, taking advantage of Durant’s ghost-demanding trade if he did. But after the Nets contacted his cheat and gave him permission to seek autographs and trades, Irving found his market lukewarm at best.
In the end, Irving, rather than taking a $30 million salary cut, chose to reunite LeBron James in Los Angeles, instead reuniting with Durant in Brooklyn.
With Irving contracting, the Nets can still move him. It wouldn’t require signing and trading, which would have been difficult for any team to get.
The problem is that there is little demand for Irving, and moving him into role playing would be self-evident. Although Durant never told Brooklyn he would ask if Irving was leaving, antagonizing him at this point would be unwise. Durant still has to have substantive conversations with Marks and Tsai about how to build this team going forward.
An unhappy Irving could be counterproductive to that end.
He can agree to an extension anytime between now and June 30, 2023, and they simply have to wait until July 6 to sign it.
The All-Star posted a video Tuesday from North Dakota, its first comment since signing up.
“This is a wonderful moment on my spiritual path, to be present enough to understand that I am not the one doing all this. At this point I am being pushed in certain directions,” Irving said, adding, “You cannot be afraid to make mistakes, in secret or in The open. The mistakes you make, you have to learn from them.”
It was not clear what errors he had made. But one thing he’s learned is that he’ll have to earn that maximum of the contract he wants – whether it’s in Brooklyn or elsewhere.