Kyrie Irving's future with the Brooklyn Nets will reportedly come down to whether Kevin Durant wants him there.
Nick Friedell of ESPN discussed the situation Tuesday on SportsCenter, saying the Nets plan to sit down with Durant to assess his feelings before making any firm decisions:
"At every turn publicly, [Kevin Durant] has been there to support [Kyrie Irving], to say we need Kyrie, to say Kyrie can win a title with me here in Brooklyn. But I can tell you, I've been talking to people in the organization the last couple of weeks, when they finally sit down and talk to Kevin throughout the summer, they are trying to figure out if Kevin saw what everybody else saw. ... The reason that whole season got sidetracked was because they couldn't count on Kyrie, and they didn't know if he was going to be out there. And the issue with Kevin is, he wants to win badly, he wants to be loyal to his friend. But I've been told that relationship, while very close, isn't always as close as it appears to be.
"So that is a literal multimillion dollar question here, not only in the next week as we figure out what Kyrie's going to do with that player option, but moving forward because they just don't know if that is a dynamic duo that will hold long-term. They want to get a clear answer from Kevin. And we've talked about it for months: Everything in that Brooklyn organization revolves around Kevin Durant. If KD wants Kyrie back, he'll be back. If KD signs off on 'eh, I don't know if it can work, I don't know if I can trust him out there every night,' then Kyrie may be elsewhere."
Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported the Nets and Irving are "at an impasse" regarding the All-Star guard's long-term future in Brooklyn. The New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers would be among the teams reportedly interested if Irving decides to leave in free agency.
Irving's 2021-22 season was mired in controversy amid his refusal to undergo COVID-19 vaccination amid New York City's coronavirus guidelines. The decision limited him to just 29 regular-season games, and his lack of availability played a factor in Brooklyn being a play-in team and James Harden's midseason trade request.
Durant, who came to Brooklyn with Irving in 2019, has largely been supportive of his embattled teammate.
However, it would be understandable if Durant was feeling a bit of buyer's remorse—especially as he watched his old team, the Golden State Warriors, hoist a championship without him. Durant went to Brooklyn in large part to forge his own path and chose a co-star who has been unreliable at best and an active detriment to his team at worst.
Irving's incredible talent makes him irreplaceable if the Nets wanted to move on, so the overwhelming likelihood is he will return. That said, there's been enough reporting on the Nets' frustration with Irving that he might be a shorter leash next season.