When Kyrie Irving was considered too toxic to even be around his own team back in early November, his market value was in the tank. The Lakers would've had an easier time offloading Russell Westbrook than Brooklyn would've had getting rid of Irving. Dude was radioactive. Nobody would go near him. Even the backup plan of the Lakers signing him as a free agent this summer was considered dead.
But a funny thing has happened since then. Irving hasn't done or said anything stupid, and instead has decided to remind everyone what an incredible talent he is. He's averaging 26-5-5 on 48/37/90 shooting splits. He's the league's leading fourth-quarter scorer. Entering play on Wednesday, he is riding a three-game streak of posting at least 30 points, five assists and five rebounds, which is a career first.
It begs the question: How much market value has Irving restored? Might the Nets, who were presumably ready to play out this season with Irving and then wash their hands of him by letting him walk as a free agent, be ready to sign up for another long-term contract with the guy?
According to Bleacher Report's Chris Haynes, Irving wants to stay with the Nets, who, to this point, have not communicated a similar desire. In fact, the Nets haven't communicated much of anything, according to Irving's agent, who sent the following message to Haynes.
"Around Kyrie and staying with the Nets? I have reached out to the Nets regarding this," his agent Shetellia Irving told Bleacher Report. "We have had no significant conversations to date. 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."
Man this is going to be a dicey call. Irving is like a child that has been on his best behavior for just long enough to make you believe he's learned his lesson, even changed. Don't think for a second that the Nets, and every other team that might possibly be interested, aren't considering the possibility of Irving returning to his radioactive ways the moment he has his long-term deal. The threat of him blowing up your season is always lurking around the corner.
That said, the guy is playing awesome. And so are the Nets. Short of a sign and trade, Brooklyn's choices are to give him a long-term deal or lose him for nothing. The latter would be a bitter pill to swallow with his friend and fellow superstar Kevin Durant, who is under contract with Brooklyn through 2026, a possibility to reissue his trade demand once Irving is gone.
Again, this speaks to Irving value restoration. He has some leverage now. Haynes says there would be "ample interest" in him around the league. There was a time when he was such damaged goods that it might not have been that unreasonable for the Lakers or Nets or someone else to get him on a massive discount. That's not happening if he keeps playing and acting like this.
If the Nets do re-sign Irving, their payroll will go through the roof. They'll be in the repeater tax with Durant, Ben Simmons and Irving on or close to max deals. But what choice do they have? They don't have salary cap room to replace him and they don't have a first-round pick to trade until 2029. A sign and trade will hard cap them. Durant likely isn't sticking around for a half-hearted rebuild.
There are no easy answers for the Nets, who might simply have to give Irving his money and quietly return to their corner to continue praying he remains on good behavior.