Fans hoping to see a divorce between Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets might wind up disappointed.
The New York Post's Brian Lewis reported Monday that "all indications strongly point toward a reunion between Brooklyn and its All-Star point guard." While Irving has a $36.5 million player option for 2022-23, Lewis added a contract extension "is more likely."
Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News suggested Irving's time with the Nets may be drawing to a close when a source told him in May the team was "outright unwilling to give him a long-term extension."
SNY's Ian Begley also reported on May 26 that opposing teams believe Brooklyn would be amenable to a sign-and-trade centered around Irving if contract negotiations break down.
Winfield laid out how Irving's "unpredictable injury history" and unwillingness to get the COVID-19 vaccine "have left the Nets hesitant" about what to do next.
Irving made just 29 appearances in 2021-22 in large part because he was unable to play home games for most of the season. He performed well when he did play, averaging 27.4 points and 5.8 assists and shooting 41.8 percent from the floor.
However, the lack of chemistry within Brooklyn's roster—driven partially by Irving's lack of availability—was laid bare when the team was swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round.
Nets general manager Sean Marks made some pointed comments following that postseason disappointment.
"We need people here that want to be here," he told reporters. "They're selfless, that want to be part of something bigger than themselves—and there's an objective and there's a goal at stake here. And in order to do that, we're going to need availability from everybody."
The problem for Brooklyn is that it has painted itself into a corner with Irving.
The team won't have the salary-cap space to sign another star if he leaves in free agency, and a sign-and-trade is unlikely to yield a return of equal value after Irving's stock took such a hit this past season.
Losing the 30-year-old in any circumstance also risks alienating Kevin Durant since he and Irving were a package deal when they signed with the Nets.
Irving staying in Brooklyn seems to be the most likely scenario, but the devil will be in the details. Giving him a fully guaranteed max contract would be a significant risk, and on the other side, he may not be too willing to leave any money on the table.
Marks will have to strike a delicate balance between seeking out the best deal for the Nets without tabling an offer that leads Irving to cut off negotiations altogether.