With the 2022 NBA Draft now in the books, it's time to turn our attention to free agency, which gets underway in less than a week (on June 30). One of the biggest storylines to watch over the next few weeks is what happens with Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving.
Irving has until June 29 to make a decision on his $36.5 million player option for next season. While he could still return to the Nets if he opts out and hits unrestricted free agency, the two sides are. Irving, of course, wants a full max deal, while the Nets are hesitant to make a long-term commitment to a player who has not been reliable over the past few seasons.
The problem for the Nets is that they aren't just making a decision on Irving. If Irving walks in free agency, then his good friend Kevin Durant could force his way out as well. There are many steps before we get to a potential Durant trade, but it's clear the Nets are in a precarious situation.
Durant, who was the driving force between this grand experiment in Brooklyn, would surely prefer to have Irving re-sign. However, during an appearance on "The ETCs Podcast" on Friday, Durant said he won't be getting involved in the process.
"It's no involvement at all. I can't be involved with it," Durant said. "This is this man's livelihood. This is much bigger than me. Being a free agent, it's one of the most important times in your career. That can't be swayed by anybody else. I just do me and wait for the time. There's nothing that can happen right now. I don't think he can even make a decision on opting out until the 29th, I think. I just let things play out and see what happens, but keep the regular contact up with Ky and see what happens. It's something that's so much out of my control that I don't want to be a part of it. We'll see what happens though."
"That's where I'm at with it. Basketball is obviously the most important thing but I try not to let that get in the way of somebody else's personal decision. Like I said, whatever happens, the friendship will still be there."
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Should Irving walk in free agency, there will be no shortage of suitors, with the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers all among the interested parties. The problem for Irving, and what the Nets are betting on with their hardball stance, is that the teams with max cap space this summer aren't contenders. Sure, Irving could go play for the Lakers or Clippers, but he'd have to take a massive pay cut to do so. Perhaps things could get interesting with the Knicks, who have a decent amount of flexibility, but even they would have to get creative to open up enough space to max Irving.
At this point, it seems like all options are on the table, and trying to predict what Kyrie Irving may do seems like a foolhardy venture. Even he may not be sure about his future. The only thing that is certain is that Irving's impending decision is one of the biggest in recent memory and will have ripple effects across the league for years to come.