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Kyrie Irving on extension: ‘I love it here’

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Brooklyn Nets v Orlando Magic Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Everything is coming up Nets.

In his first comments since Mayor Eric Adams changed the private sector mandate to permit him to play in the city, Kyrie Irving told beat writers at the Nets morning shootaround Saturday how he wants to the Nets and over the long term.

“It has always been about being comfortable, loving where I’m at, and I love it here,” Irving said. “Once that summertime hits, I know we’ll have some conversations. But there’s no way I can leave my man No. 7 [Kevin Durant] anywhere.

“And as we build, as you see me playing with some guys I’ve had some relationships with in the past, and this is the recipe for success — when you have guys that you’ve known for a while, young guys that are willing to listen, and then a front office that’s willing to do what’s necessary in order to build this thing for the long run. So that’s the mindset. And that’s where I’m at.”

Later, Steve Nash told reporters, “I think we all feel confident that we’ll have Kyrie back but, you know that’s a front office question.”

Per Bobby Marks of ESPN, Irving is eligible for a five-year $246 million contract with Brooklyn if he declines his $36.5 million player option as expected. That would keep him under contract through 2026-27 and match Durant’s timeframe with the Nets. Durant signed an extension last summer that will play him $240 million over five ending in 2025-26. Ben Simmons’ deal, like Durant and Irving’s the max at $170 million, runs through 2024-25. Joe Harris’ deal which pays him in the high teens, goes through 2023-24.

Of course, the Nets could either offer Irving less or add options and incentives that might change the arithmetic. They were in talks about an extension last summer before Irving decided not to get vaccinated.

Irving told the reporters that it isn’t just about this year for the Brooklynites. It’s a long-term thing.

“I signed up for this for the long run,” Irving said. “So I love this year. I’m grateful. It hasn’t been a prototypical year,” he said in an understatement. “But when I look at my teammates and where we are as an organization, I’m looking for the long run and what we can do for legacy talk. We can talk again — judge my performance, judge everybody else’s performance, judge the league. But for me, and I know our team sentiment here and have something sustainable. Not just put this together real quick and see what happens.”

The comment mirrored what Durant had said Monday, before the mandate was changed when he noted...

“So short term, we can focus on [this year’s chances] for sure, but we’re also looking at the big picture of things, too. Seeing how we can build something sustainable for more than just a year or two or three. I know I’m getting old, but I feel like I’m mentally and physically in a solid space to contribute to an organization that’s ready to grow and reach new heights.

“I’m not guaranteeing that we got a championship. But I just like what we’re building,” the 33-year-old said. “And I’m not going to say this is the only year we’ve got an opportunity to fight and work towards something. I don’t think next year we’ve got to start all the way over and try to figure out what’s the next iteration of the Nets.

“I feel like we can just build on what we have and see what happens. We got guys that are committed and want to be here.”

Durant and Irving’s commitments — plus Simmons deal — give the Nets flexibility in planning long-term. With three building blocks, they have the luxury of acquiring complimentary players over the next three or four seasons.

In addition to the long-term Durant, Irving, Simmons and Harris contracts, the Nets have Cam Thomas and Day’Ron Sharpe on rookie deals that extend out to the 2025-26, both at reasonable numbers because of how low they were taken in the 2021 NBA Draft. Also, Seth Curry is under contract through next year, 2022-23 and Patty Mills has a player option for next year as well.

As for this year’s prospects, Irving noted the degree of difficulty the Nets face.

“Let me just call a spade a spade, we’re in the eighth spot, and we’re still expected to be contenders,” Irving said. “And if that’s not a true testament to the level of this talent on this team, I don’t know what is. I appreciate the respect. But honestly it takes a little bit longer to build that continuity. And we’re using these games and practice time.”

In his first comments on the change in the mandate, Irving said that awaiting the final decision was tough.

“Yes, yes, yes,” Irving repeated. “Please take my comment serious when I say I’ve been pinching myself since Wednesday and Thursday, because there was a time where I got my hopes really, really high and all the air was just let out.

“It’s just a level of disappointment, and I didn’t want to get too excited. And still I’m trying to focus on this game. But I know [Sunday] will eventually come, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to be playing back in Brooklyn.”

Although Irving did not discuss details related to his previous disappointment, he said publicly on February 6 that he was “keeping a positive mindset that anything can happen in the next few days or the next week.”

Irving also pledged to battle vaccine mandates, which of course proved enormously helpful in reducing deaths and severe illness since their introduction in December 2020.

“I’ve been saying from the beginning with all this, it’s never been just about me, and any special privilege or exemption,” the Nets superstar said. “I think there are a lot of people dealing with real consequences from being unvaccinated. And I don’t think it’s talked about enough in terms of our essential workers and people on the frontlines, and it’s just it’s a whole community of us that really want to stand together.

“And though I’m very appreciative of Mayor Adams doing what he did, and everyone in our Nets organization, everyone sending in notes to the mayor and tweets or Instagram posts or wherever you call it. You know, now is the time to really get all of us included and get everybody back to work so we get some normalcy around here. But I know everybody still feels it, and there’s a whole community of people that have lost their jobs due to this mandate as well. And I’m just putting care out for them most importantly, and standing alongside of them.”

In the wide-ranging discussion, Irving also reached out and congratulated fellow St. Patrick’s/Patrick School alumnus Shaheen Holloway who’s guided St. Peter’s to their third but upset in the NCAA tournament.

Irving said he’s enjoyed seeing New Jersey’s basketball culture get it’s due. So who would he root for in a potential Duke-St. Peter’s Final Four? “I can’t lose,” he responded.