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As free agency gets closer, negotiations begin

2022 NBA Playoffs - Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Negotiations, especially when they involve a quarter-billion dollars, can be tricky things. And they rarely only involve two parties.

So, as free agency approaches with deadlines at the end of next month, expect a lot of discussions and rumors emanating from everywhere. And that starts, of course, with Kyrie Irving.

Kristian Winfield reports Wednesday that Brooklyn is “now, according to a source familiar with the Nets’ thought process, outright unwilling to give him a long-term extension.”

The question is what does “long-term” extension mean? The Nets and Irving have a number of ways to get things done, starting with an Irving decision on his opt-out and going all the way up to the two sides agreeing to a five-year, $248 million extension. In between could be contracts with differing years, bonuses, player or team options, etc. So there will be lot of room for negotiations.

And despite Sean Marks’ criticism about his availability, which Winfield called “hardball,” Irving has not used his social media accounts, with their millions of followers, to respond. That’s a smart negotiating move too.

Both sides have advantages and disadvantages in the upcoming talks. Irving has publicly said he wants to come back and continue to play with Kevin Durant, even suggesting that he, KD, Marks and Joe Tsai could “manage the franchise.} He could opt out and become a free agent leaving the Nets without the cap space or assets to replace him but his value would be at an all-time low and there isn’t lot of space out there.

Winfield also suggested that an Irving departure might also lead to a downward spiral that would end with the worst case scenario, the departure of Kevin Durant.

“[I]f Irving leaves the Nets, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Durant becomes frustrated with the organization’s ability to put championship pieces around him.” he wrote.

Quoting multiple sources, Winfield said that KD has not spoken to the Nets front office since the Nets lost to the Celtics a month ago (Durant told David Letterman in a Netflix interview that he always takes three weeks off after a season.)

The Nets, for their part, aren’t commenting. That’s also a negotiating point. And of course, if the Nets and Irving come up with an “amicable solution,” as Winfield describes it, the opposite narrative would be quite appealing. They’ll have their four best players under contract for between two and four more seasons and promising rookies under contract for three years. That’s the kind of stability that franchises need. Ask the Celtics.

On Thursday, Ian Begley reported that he could not independently confirm Winfield’s point that the Nets are “outright unwilling” to give Irving a long-term extension.” He did quote NBA executives, however, as saying that they believed the Nets would be open to a sign-and-trade involving Irving if he decided to opt-out. That would make sense since if Irving left without an S&T, the Nets would left with the prospect of no Irving and nothing coming back in return for him.

Begley also reported that in discussions with other teams, the Nets are putting a priority on “high character” players. Marks public at his and Steve Nash’s end-of-season press conference has been “echoed” during the Nets’ conversations over the past few weeks, writes Begley.

Brooklyn has made it known that adding high-character players is a focus this offseason. “It’s a clear priority,” one person in touch with the club said.

The Nets have access to the $6.3 million tax mid-level exception in the offseason. Brooklyn’s luxury tax bill for the 2021-2022 season was the second-highest in the NBA, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

Meanwhile, Brian Lewis reports that Ben Simmons continues to progress...

Finally, Stephen A. Smith went nuts on ESPN analyst Jalen Rose for admittedly giving Irving a third team NBA vote despite playing only 29 games this season.