As Kyrie Irving mentioned in one of tweets Sunday, it is a chess match...
Living in The Age of No more secrets.— A11Even (@KyrieIrving) June 26, 2022
No one can hide their hands anymore.
Pay close attention, Everything is a chess move.
The TRUTH vs THE LIE
Of course, we don’t know if the tweet related to his negotiations or the world at large. There’s certainly been enough going on in the world this week to suggest it could be the latter.
But the Nets talks with Irving and his camp, led by Shetellia Riley Irving, his agent and stepmom, constitute a chess match, one where the savviest of players keep their upcoming moves in mind ... and nowhere else. And although we don’t know where the match stands, there are some data points suggesting where things might stand, how much Joe Tsai might be willing to offer.
Kristian Winfield, who first broke news of the standoff a month ago, reported this week that the Nets first offer back in May was essentially the player option. In other words, take the $36.5 million, prove your worth and let’s talk again next summer.
In May, a source who requested anonymity because of the nature of the negotiations told The News the Nets wanted Irving to opt into the final year of his contract worth $36.5M in order to “prove” he deserves a long-term deal. For a star player with a very real injury history, a one-year deal is a non-starter. It is unclear if the Nets have budged on the one-year stance and have offered more year.
Of course, first offers are just that, the first moves in a complicated dance. Adrian Wojnarowski wrote this week as well about money. He wasn’t that specific but he was speculative enough to warrant attention. Hey, it’s Woj.
The organization clearly wants Irving on a shorter deal, whether it’s his $36 million opt-in for the 2022-23 season — or perhaps an opt-out and new deal that could give him a raise to $42 million annually on a two-year deal.
That would be two years and $84 million which is a far cry from the full max Irving reportedly wants: five years at $245.6 million, one of the largest contracts in NBA history despite having played only 103 out of a possible 226 since joining the Nets.
Zach Lowe, Woj’s ESPN’s colleague, didn’t mention numbers on his free agency podcast Friday, but described the Nets latest offer as “real.”
“The Nets have made a real offer to Kyrie Irving. I don’t know the exact permutations. Probably several. This is not a case where there’s a one-year deal and that’s it. He’s been offered real stuff but I don’t exactly know what they are.”
He did not elaborate but his guest on The Lowe Post, ESPN insider and former Nets assistant GM Bobby Marks has offered what he thinks might be a fair compromise.
Bobby Marks told The Post in early June that a fair deal might be a three-year max extension that was 100 percent guaranteed in Year 3 if Irving logged 60 games in 2022-23 and 2023-24. Another possibility, Marks told Brian Lewis, would be annual $6 million bonuses for meeting a goal of 65 appearances. That would work out to a three-year $138 million deal with $120 million guaranteed and $18 million in unlikely bonuses. Irving last played 60 games in a season back in 2018-19 when he tallied 67, the third straight year where he played 60 or more games. He played 54 out of 72 games for the Nets in the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season, the equivalent of 65 games over a normal 82-game season.
While Irving has reportedly given the Nets a list of six teams he preferred, Bobby Marks and Woj — among others — have pointed to various degrees of difficulty he would face getting anywhere near the max in any of those cities. (And it’s really hard to imagine at least one of those teams, the Sixers, have any interest ... for a variety of reasons.)
In the past, we have noted that there are many pathways to an agreement depending on which side wants what at the end of the day. There are options, team and player; bonuses both likely and unlikely; guarantees; contract length etc., etc. Does Irving have a drop-dead number, one where he says, thanks, but no thanks? And will his loss of $17 million in salary this season — and his potential loss of his Nike sneaker deal — affect his decision?
The big question of course is whether things can get done in an environment Woj described as “acrimonious.”
On Monday morning, Lowe emphasized that Irving will not get the max, that it is off the table.
“The max deal, everything I’ve heard, is not coming [for Kyrie Irving]. The Nets are not going to be held hostage by the threat of Kyrie and then Kevin Durant following them out the door,” said Lowe on Get Up. But he added that there may still be time for a “fair compromise.”
We will likely know more when Wednesday arrives and all options and qualifying offers for pending restricted free agents must get done by Wednesday. Then, starting Thursday at 6:00 p.m. ET, teams can begin negotiating, but as any fan knows, the leaks start at 6:01 p.m.
Of course, Irving is only one of nine free agents on the roster out of 17 players. What the Nets do with each of them is likely to be directly affected by the Irving chess match.