Kyrie Irving free agency rumors: Nets could back off pursuit of All-Star if Kevin Durant isn't coming with him, per report

For weeks, all indications have been that the Brooklyn Nets and Kyrie Irving were headed for an almost certain marriage, but things change quickly around this time of year in the NBA. With Kevin Durant's Achilles injury that will keep him out of all of next season making his free agent status a complete wild card, Brian Lewis of the New York Post is reporting the Nets are having an 'internal debate' as to whether they would still want Irving if Durant doesn't end up joining him. 

From Lewis:

The Post has reported the Nets' dream offseason is pairing Kevin Durant with Kyrie Irving, and sources say that hasn't changed.

The question is if they can't land Durant, do they still want Irving? Especially if they have to lose D'Angelo Russell — their own 23-year-old homegrown All-Star — to get him?

It's a question that has turned into a civil war among the fan base. It also has become an internal debate the Nets are having right now.

The Post has confirmed Brooklyn might have qualms about signing the enigmatic Irving if he isn't bringing the injured Durant with him.

Other teams had already backed off of pursuing Irving with similar concerns over the way things went awry in Boston. If the Nets do the same, it would mean keeping Russell, who is a younger and cheaper option as a restricted free agent.

The X-factor here is obviously Durant, and nobody has a read on what he's going to do. All we know if whoever signs K.D. won't have him on the court next season. As for Irving, his time in Boston, arguably the most disappointing team last year, furthered the doubts many have that he is the type of player, and leader, who can be the 1A catalyst of a championship team. Pairing him with a player like Durant removes that responsibility from Irving's shoulders and just lets him do his bucket-getting thing. 

Should the Nets back off Irving, Russell could very well become the immediate beneficiary. Letting Russell walk is the only way Brooklyn would have enough cap room to sign two max free agents, but if that's not going to happen, Russell has clearly established that he wants to stay in Brooklyn where he has developed into an All-Star. 

Whereas a max deal for Irving would cost the Nets $141 million over four years, the same four-year deal for Russell, because he's just coming off his rookie deal and thus is eligible for less, would only cost them $117 million. 

Obviously, stay tuned. 

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