Kyrie Irving Exercises $36.5M Nets Contract Option Amid Lakers Sign-And-Trade Rumors

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIJune 27, 2022

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving reacts during the second half of Game 1 of the team's NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday, June 5, 2021, in New York. The Nets won 115-107. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
AP Photo/Adam Hunger

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving has exercised his $36.5 million player option for 2022-23, per Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.

Charania noted the point guard "is bypassing on multiple opt-in and trade scenarios to fulfill his four-year commitment to the Nets and Kevin Durant," and the seven-time All-Star said: "Normal people keep the world going, but those who dare to be different lead us into tomorrow. I've made my decision to opt in. See you in the fall. A11even."

Optimism reigned after Irving and Kevin Durant joined forces on the Nets in the summer of 2019. However, that union has led to just one playoff series win in three seasons.

Durant was out for the 2019-20 season with a ruptured Achilles suffered during the 2019 NBA Finals as a member of the Golden State Warriors, while injuries held Irving to just 20 games that year, but the Nets still made the playoffs anyway.

The 2020-21 season brought more hope, and the addition of James Harden via trade in January sprung championship dreams.

However, a variety of reasons (namely more injuries) made it so the three superstars were rarely on the court at the same time. The Nets fell to the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round.

The 2021-22 season brought more drama. Irving's Nets future was in serious question after he started the 2021-22 season on the sidelines because of his refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19, thereby preventing him from playing any home games in New York's Barclays Center because of the city's vaccine mandates.

The Nets decided to bar him from practices and games entirely until he was eligible to become a "full participant."

However, the Nets eventually decided to change course and allowed Irving to return on a part-time basis as Brooklyn became short-handed because of injuries and the league's health and safety protocols. His first game back was on Jan. 5 against the Indiana Pacers, and the mandates were lifted in April, allowing him to play in all games.

By then, though, it was too late. Harden requested a trade and was already out of town in February after landing in Philadelphia. Ben Simmons was acquired from the 76ers (for Harden, Seth Curry and Andre Drummond), but he never suited up because of a herniated disc in his back.

The Nets made the playoffs, but the Boston Celtics dispatched them in a four-game first-round sweep.

Durant will presumably be around for a while after inking a four-year, $198 million extension that will keep him with the team through the 2025-26 season. The same goes for Simmons thanks to his five-year, $177.2 million contract that runs through 2024-25.

But Irving was a question mark. A source told Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News on May 24 that the Nets had no intentions on inking Irving to a long-term contract extension. He also reported that the Nets and KD had no talks after the season ended.

Things appeared to change on June 7, when Brian Lewis of the New York Post reported that "all indications strongly point toward a reunion between Brooklyn and its All-Star point guard."

However, the pendulum swung the other way on June 20 when Charania reported that "an impasse currently exists among the parties that clears the way for the seven-time All-Star to consider the open marketplace."

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Monday that the Los Angeles Lakers were the only team interested in a potential sign-and-trade for the guard.

No one can deny the 30-year-old Irving's talent. He has three All-NBA teams during an 11-year NBA career with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics and Nets. He averaged 27.4 points, 5.8 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game for the 2021-22 Nets.

But Irving's future is now murkier. He'll be a free agent in 2023 barring an extension, so it's unclear whether the KD-KAI experiment could be nearing its end.