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‘SEE YOU IN THE FALL,’ says Kyrie Irving after opting in to $36.5 million player option

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Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets - Game Four Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Crisis averted? Calm restored?

Late Friday afternoon, Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the news that Kyrie Irving will opt into his $36.5 million player option, telling Shams “See you in the fall.”

Adrian Wojnarowski followed up with his take...

Irving will now be an unrestricted free agent a year from now.

The news came hours after it appeared the two sides were locked in an increasingly acrimonious negotiation in which Irving wanted a fully guaranteed, five year, $245.6 million deal and the Nets were steadfast in not giving him anything more than short-term contract, perhaps as little as two years and $84 million. There were also reports that Kevin Durant had lost confidence in the front office as a result of the stalemate over his friend and teammate’s future.

Moreover, Kristian Winfield of the Daily News reported that the Nets had granted Irving permission to negotiate a sign-and-trade. But there are few realistic options out there. The Lakers were the only team interested in doing such a deal and the Nets reportedly were not interested. Adrian Wojnarowski reported earlier Monday that the Lakers offer was centered on Irving for Russell Westbrook. The other alternative was for Irving to opt out and sign the taxpayers MLE which would have meant a $30 million pay cut. That wasn’t very realistic either.

And as Alex Schiffer reported, a decision to take an 85 percent pay cut would not have sat well with the player’s union.

Irving is a vice president for the NBPA and taking a salary roughly 85 percent less than the player option wouldn’t have been looked on favorably by the player’s union.

The decision essentially kicks the can down the road for the player and team. The Nets can at any point between now and June 30, 2023, extend Irving for another five years. One advantage for the Nets now is that Irving will be motivated playing for his next contract and will want to play as many games and have his team win as many games as possible.

While the Nets could in theory move to trade Irving, as Bobby Marks said on ESPN, there are few teams that would be willing to expend assets — young players or draft picks — for a player on an expiring deal who also has had as controversial three-year term as Irving has had with the Nets.

And as Woj reported, Irving has until Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. to file the paperwork on his opt-in. “The Nets can still move Irving as an expiring contract, but the opt-in means he’s no longer eligible to get the immediate long-term deal he wanted as part of a sign-and-trade,” Woj added.

Said one Nets insider, “Kyrie blinked.”

The result has to be seen as win, in particular, for the Nets owner, Joe Tsai. One of Monday’s big talking points on ESPN and The Athletic Monday — before Kyrie Irving’s decision — was Joe Tsai was “driving” the Nets hardline position on Kyrie Irving, that Tsai and Sean Marks were in “lockstep,” This is not Sean Marks going “rogue,” as Alex Schiffer said in an Athletic roundtable.

Tsai along with Sean Marks had maintained their commitment to ensure that they had control over the franchise rather than the players as great as they are.

“The ownership, in Joe Tsai, does not want a repeat of last year,” said Brian Windhorst earlier in the day referring to Irving having played only 29 games last season. “Joe Tsai is the person driving this, you can be assured that the moves they [Nets] are making come from ownership.”

indeed, Tsai has had a key, if not the, role in virtually all the decisions regarding Irving, whether it was the Nets signing him to the max back in July 2019 or trying to convince him that the COVID vaccine is safe as he did at his San Diego home back in October.

Tsai was also involved in both the original decision to banish Irving from the team after he refused to get vaccinated and the later decision to have him return and play road games until the city lifted its mandates. And it was Tsai who reportedly used his good relationship with Mayor Eric Adams to help end the mandates that were affecting only Irving.

Indeed, Irving has had good relationships with both Joe and Clara Wu Tsai, mainly through their similar concerns about social justice. But by season’s end, Tsai along with Marks believed things had to change.

Irving did not help matters when after the Nets were swept, he famously suggested after that series that he, Durant, Tsai and Marks should run the franchise.

“When I say I’m here with Kevin (Durant), I think that it really entails us managing this franchise together alongside Joe (Tsai) and Sean (Marks),” Irving stated, “and just our group of family members that we have in our locker room, in our organization.”

That may not have sat well with ownership or management, particularly considering the timing.

Now, of course, fences will have to mended, but it is a business, not personal.