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No talks yet between Kyrie Irving and Nets, says Sean Marks

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NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

There is plenty of time before things get tight, a month and a half, at the least but there’s been no talks between Kyrie Irving and the Nets, the organization’s biggest free agency of the off-season.

“I look forward to [it],” Marks told YES Network in an interview that aired two days ago but took place a week back. “We have not had a conversation yet. So I look forward to getting in a room with him and Joe and his team, and we will. We’ll see what it looks like for Kyrie moving forward here, and what he needs from us and so forth.

“So, again, it wouldn’t be right for me to comment on what hypothetical could happen, because we don’t know. We haven’t had those conversations with Kyrie yet. But when they do, we’ll see if it’s the right fit for both sides.”

“Right fit,” of course, is the question. There are so many permutations of what Irving’s contract could look like, so many options.

Brian Lewis lays out the basic parameters available to the two teams. The simplest would be for Irving to opt in to his final year, at $36.9 million, play this season, then become an unrestricted free agent a year from now.

It’s when he opts out, that things become more complex...

If Irving opts out, he would be eligible for a four-year, $189.7 million extension or even a five-year, $245.6 million deal, with only the Nets able to offer him the fifth year. If he picks up his option, he could ink extensions of either three or four years, picking up in 2023-24, but that would require leaving more than $5 million on the table next season.

The Nets should be expected to try to protect themselves, either with a shorter deal or baked-in incentives. Irving’s current four-year, $136 million deal contains a total of $4.3 million in incentives, per Spotrac, with $3 million of that so-called “unlikely bonuses.”

As for the more unlikely options, like opting out and going somewhere else, it’s possible but unlikely. There just isn’t a lot of salary cap space out there and the teams that have it are in the midst of rebuilds. Would they even want to bring on Irving?

Irving could opt out and leave. He is eligible for a four-year, $182.1 million deal elsewhere, per Spotrac. But the Pistons, Magic, Pacers, Spurs, Trailblazers and Thunder are the only teams with ample cap room, so Irving opting out seems unlikely.

And considering he would be leaving up to $63.5 million on the table by leaving, a sign-and-trade seems equally improbable. A return to Brooklyn seems a fait accompli.

Of course, Irving has shown he’s been willing to forego big bucks if needed. He gave up $14.5 million in salary last season after refusing to get vaccinated. Still, he has been quite public about his desire to return.

“I don’t really plan on going anywhere,” said Kyrie after the Nets 116-112 Game 4 loss against the Boston Celtics. “I’m just looking forward to the summer and just building with our guys here.”

He also famously suggested that he, KD, Sean Marks and Joe Tsai could be involved in “co-management relationship.”

Moreover, the Nets would have a hard time replacing Irving’s talent. They would still be over the salary cap if Irving walked and the possibility of a trade seems remove.

“It’s hard to see Irving playing elsewhere next season given the season he had after refusing to get vaccinated and was sidelined the first half of it,” wrote Alex Schiffer of The Athletic Tuesday in his assessment of the Nets own free agents’ futures. “But the Nets’ title chances take a huge dip without him. Irving will likely be a Net next season, but the terms in which he is will be fascinating.”

The Nets may also want to time his contract with that of Durant. KD is signed through the end of the 2025-26 season. Ben Simmons, the other part of Brooklyn’s new “Big Three,” is on the books through the previous season.

Marks, in both the YES interview and last week’s press conference, suggested there are issues to resolve.

“You want people here to be part of something bigger than themselves. It’s a team sport ... it’s not individuals,” he told Michael Grady. “Now, there are certain individuals that have a higher talent than the rest of us, but at the end of the day, everybody’s gotta be able to contribute.

“I think these last couple years here, some of the outside circumstances that were going on in the world affected our guys really poorly, unfortunately. Hopefully, those days are behind us and we can move forward.”

One thing in the Nets favor, other than Irving’s desire to return — and Durant’s desire to have him back — is his relationship with the team’s co-owners who will have to make the ultimate decision. It is, after all Joe and Clara Wu Tsai’s money that will be deposited in Irving’s account.

Relations between Irving and the Tsais are believed to be good despite all that happened this year. Clara Tsai spoke last November about how she missed speaking to Irving on the social justice issues the two both care about. “These are things he really cares about and we’ve really connected over that,” she told Grady back then.

Similarly, Joe Tsai has spoken of his “respect” for Irving’s position of the COVID vaccine, even if he doesn’t understand it. And Irving did publicly and personally thank ownership for helping to get the city to lift mandates that had stopped him from playing.

That’s not to say there won’t be “frank” conversations, as Marks said of discussions with Irving over his stand on the COVID vaccine. Bottom line, all signs point to an Irving return. The devil, of course, is always in the details.