It’s Draft Night in the NBA and what is everyone on ESPN’s morning shows talking about?
The Brooklyn Nets and their prodigal point guard, Kyrie Irving,
Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst were on Get Up Thursday morning and while they didn’t offer much, if anything, new, the two reporters reiterated their basic viewpoints: for Woj that the Nets are risking a lot if they can’t get a deal done and risk losing Kevin Durant in the process; for Windhorst, that the most likely scenario is an Irving return.
Both believe that 1) the Nets went into the talks with their eyes open, knowing the possible risk they’re taking re KD’s future commitment, and 2) that Irving is likely to return unless he’s willing to give up $30 million or more to sign with another team.
There’s no real clarity on where things stand but reading the tea leaves, it appears the Nets are offering Irving a two year extension worth $84 million with incentives. The max they can give him is far higher: $246 million over five. Interestingly, the discussion centered on the most extreme outcome — Irving leaving Brooklyn and signing for the taypayers MLE — and not a sign-and-trade.
“Obviously, Kyrie Irving has till next week to decide on that player option in his contract,” said Woj. “Just because he opts out of the deal doesn’t necessarily mean he’s leaving the Nets. He can still negotiate an extension. He can actually negotiate a number higher than the $36 million he’s owed if he opts in.
“So he’d have to be able to take a $35, $36 million pay cut for next year to leave Brooklyn. Essentially, the Nets want to do a shorter deal with Kyrie Irving, something that gives them protections, based on perhaps games played. He has not played or been available as much as they would have liked him to have been the last couple of years.
“Kyrie Irving wants a long-term, max and certainly a big part of this decision, these negotiations, is built on how this impacts Kevin Durant. He wants Kyrie Irving back. He understands that with him, if this is a healthy team, this is still a championship contender.”
Woj spoke as well about Durant’s position, posing questions about his commitment if the Irving negotiations go south he’s left without his best friend.
“The Nets do have concern — and rightfully so — that if Kyrie Irving leaves, would Kevin Durant ask for a trade. And with four years left on his deal, certainly he’s committed to the team.
“He’s signed long term but also if you’re Kyrie Irving also the fatigue others have felt around him and the drama that’s surrounded him. At some point, you know, Kevin Durant can feel some of that fatigue, too. But it is really a line that the Nets are trying to walk this week to get a deal done with Kyrie Irving — find some common ground there that keeps this team together and not them in a position where Kevin Durant’s desire to be there becomes questioned.”
Windhorst provided a broader picture of Irving’s options — or lack of them.
“As far as I can tell, as I talk to people around the league, there’s no team making moves right now trying to clear space to try to make a path to give Kyrie Irving a big contract. The team at the top of that list is the New York Knicks because they are making moves to clear space for a point guard, but it’s either trading up to get Jaden Ivey or clearing additional room to go after Jalen Brunson in free agency next week. It is not Kyrie Irving at the top of their wish list.”
He argued that Irving is not about walking out. It’s about giving the Nets to find some common ground to get a deal done.
“When the Nets decided to take this path, they were aware of Kyrie Irving’s statement at the end of the season, which is he planned to be back in Brooklyn. They realized that that was his choice is. The rest of the league heard that too. They know that Kyrie’s intention is not to look elsewhere is to apply pressure on the Nets, not that he wants to leave there.
“This may really come down to Kyrie’s willingness to actually opt out and try to canvass the market, to show up in Los Angeles on June 30 to hint that he wants to be a Laker, something like that. But really, the Nets are taking a calculated risk. They knew that there was a calculated risk with Kevin Durant. None of this has taken them by surprise. They’re trying to play their leverage. Kyrie is trying to play his.”
Both were asked by Mike Greenberg what they expect will happen, will Irving be on the Nets roster after next week.
“I think that people do expect Kyrie Irving to return based on the economics of it,” Woj told Greenie. “And how big of a financial hit Kyrie Irving would have to take, BUT he also probably surprised a lot of people with his willingness to lose $17 million last year because he wouldn’t get vaccinated. So there is precedent for him for leaving money on the table but this is a lot of money and he’s losing a lucrative shoe deal.”
“I can almost tell you that in the history of the NBA that I can’t think of another player who is willing to leave $30 million on the table and leave Kevin Durant to go to Los Angeles,” said Windhorst. “But Kyrie Irving is one of the most unpredictable and unexplainable players. And that wild card creates uncertainty here. Otherwise, this is an academic situation, but with Kyrie Irving, it’s never academic.”
Later on First Take, Windhorst offered some optimism in general about the Nets.
“I still think this Nets roster has a lot going for it,” he said. “I think Ben Simmons is the type of defensive playmaker that could potentially be a big difference for a team whose defense was holding them back last year. I think you put Seth Curry and Joe Harris on the floor with Kevin Durant, even without Ben Simmons out there, you have tremendous floor spacing. I think that Steve Nash has gotten better as a coach as time has gone on. I think this Nets team has a lot going for it.”
However, Windy also noted that even if Kyrie departs on his own, the Nets payroll issues will keep them above the cap ... with little hope of making a big deal.
“I would point out because I know all fans compute all this ... it’s complicated. If Kyrie were leave and do what I think is incredibly impossible and walk away from $30 million and go to the Lakers, that would not mean the Nets would have salary cap room. They’re so far over the cap and tax that even if that $37 million came off the books, they still wouldn’t be able to sign another player.”
Windhorst added that that reality is something Irving is using as leverage and why Durant is “watching very closely.”
Unspoken is how an extended impasse could affect the Nets roster situation. With nine free agents, the Nets will have to make a number of decisions on whether to bring back certain players or add others. Irving’s decision will impact not just roster structure but also the Nets salary cap situation.
GAMES JUNE 22, 2022
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