The Brooklyn Nets may not be ready to offer Kyrie Irving a full five-year max contract, but they are seemingly willing to negotiate.
ESPN's Zach Lowe said the Nets have given Irving a "real" offer in negotiations, though the exact numbers are unknown.
"The Nets have made a real offer to Kyrie Irving," Lowe said on his podcast. "I don't know the exact permutations. Probably several. This is not a case where there's a one-year deal and that's it. He's been offered real stuff, but I don't exactly know what they are."
Irving can become an unrestricted free agent next month if he declines his $36.5 million player option for the 2022-23 season. He would be eligible for a five-year contract worth an estimated $248 million if he opts out and re-signs with the Nets.
Brooklyn's seeming unwillingness to sign Irving to a full max deal has clouded his long-term future with the franchise. Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News reported the Nets have given Irving permission to seek out potential sign-and-trade opportunities ahead of his decision on his player option.
Since joining the Nets in 2019, he has been limited to 103 games—a number caused by injuries and his own doing.
The All-Star guard was limited to only 29 games last season amid his refusal to undergo COVID-19 vaccination. The situation clouded the entire Nets campaign, causing damage to his public reputation and playing a factor in James Harden requesting a trade to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Irving's inconsistent availability is undoubtedly the biggest factor in the stalemate between the two sides. However, management's souring relationship with Irving has also reportedly led to tension with Kevin Durant.
"You have reports that Kyrie is looking elsewhere. I made some calls. Kevin Durant has not talked to the team in weeks," Logan Murdock of The Ringer said on The Mismatch podcast. "I don't think Kevin is confident in the front office right now. I don't know if he's at the stage of leaving, but there's a big uneasiness from not only from the Kyrie side but the KD side as well."
The overwhelming likelihood is that the Nets wind up caving to a certain degree and offering Irving a long-term contract. The potential of losing Durant over a falling out with Irving is not something the franchise can withstand. Brooklyn pot-committed itself to the Irving-Durant pairing in 2019 and then doubled down to acquire Harden—a move that has the Houston Rockets controlling the Nets' draft position for at least the next four years.
Unless Brooklyn is willing to blow things up and rebuild from the ground up again, a compromise is necessary.