Kyrie Irving is playing ... and playing well. At the top of his game actually. It’s more than his numbers. He is leading the Nets with Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons out and mentoring younger players on the roster. His clutch gene is on display every night, leading the NBA in fourth quarter points. Moreover, his last run-in with controversy seems to be in the past and his personal generosity is once again in the forefront.
But as Marc Stein pointed out Monday, Irving is still unsigned beyond June 30. He’s operating on an expiring $36.9 million deal and although the Nets can sign him to a four year, $200 million deal at any time this season or wait till free agency, there is, according to his agent, no appreciable movement on a new deal despite his desire to remain in black-and-white.
Writing in his latest substack offering, Stein thinks there’s unlikely to be any movement, at least in the short run...
As Kyrie Irving’s agent and stepmother Shetellia Riley Irving told my podcast partner Chris Haynes in a Bleacher Report story last week, Irving hopes to sign a contract extension with the Nets — but substantive talks between the sides have yet to begin. Some league observers have posited that this could be by design on Brooklyn’s part, with the Nets apparently convinced that they are under no pressure to move swiftly on the extension front when Irving would likely need their help via sign-and-trade to relocate in the offseason to any other team he likes. The Nets were on a stunning 18-2 surge when Kevin Durant was sidelined by a knee sprain on Jan. 8 and have gone 4-6 with Irving as their solo scoring force.
That’s not to say the Nets won’t move. Stein says only that “some league observers” believe the Nets, notoriously close-mouthed on any player personnel issues, are “apparently convinced” the Nets will wait.
There’s no indication of any bad blood between the Tsais and the Irvings. Clara Wu Tsai was seen high-fiving Kyrie in the hallway outside the Nets locker at the Chase Center in San Francisco following the Nets big win. It seems like a normal negotiating stance when what’s at stake is a huge amount of money (plus luxury taxes.)
Riley Irving’s comment to Haynes noted that her stepson wants to stay in Brooklyn.
“We have had no significant conversations to date,” he said. “The desire is to make Brooklyn home, with the right type of extension, which means the ball is in the Nets’ court to communicate now if their desire is the same.”
As Bobby Marks and other pundits have noted, the likelihood is that Irving stays in Brooklyn. The Nets are unlikely to want to go through another summer like 2022. There also doesn’t seem to be, at least at this point, any other realistic suitors for Irving. And of course, everything could change in an instant. So in the meantime, as we have since last June 27 when Irving opted into his last year, we wait.
Meanwhile, Stein didn’t report on any “whispers” surrounding the Nets as the trade deadline, now nine days away, approaches. We’ll have to wait there as well.
- NBA Trade Deadline: Latest whispers - Marc Stein - The Steinline