3 Instant Reactions After Kyrie Irving Exercises Nets Contract Option

Doric SamJune 28, 2022

3 Instant Reactions After Kyrie Irving Exercises Nets Contract Option

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    Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

    The longstanding drama of the 2022 NBA offseason has come to a swift end.

    There had been rampant speculation regarding whether Kyrie Irving would part ways with the Brooklyn Nets, but that all came to a rest Monday after Shams Charania of Stadium and The Athletic reported that Irving has decided to exercise his $36.9 million player option to remain with the team next season.

    Shams Charania @ShamsCharania

    Kyrie Irving: “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.” <a href="https://t.co/rpiS8YkSZI">https://t.co/rpiS8YkSZI</a>

    So what does Irving's decision mean going forward? Here are three reactions that explore the ramifications.

Kyrie Irving Made Most Sensible Decision Available

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    Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

    Irving made the most sensible decision on multiple fronts.

    The obvious driving force behind Irving's choice is financial. Had he opted out and tested free agency, he would've been sacrificing at least $30 million in salary, as he likely would've had to settle for a mid-level exception to sign elsewhere. While nobody would put it past Irving to take such a massive financial hit, it shouldn't be a surprise that he took the money.

    Irving settled on opting in after the Nets' reported refusal to sign him to the long-term deal he desired. B/R's Jake Fischer reported last week that Brooklyn was hesitant to make a substantial commitment to Irving and preferred a short-term contract. Now, he's set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2023.

    Irving had also reportedly been pushing the Nets to explore sign-and-trade opportunities before making his decision. The New York Daily News' Kristian Winfield reported earlier Monday that he gave Brooklyn a list of six teams that he would've preferred as landing spots. But ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Los Angeles Lakers were the only team remotely interested in trading for the seven-time All-Star point guard, and he added that the Nets had no interest in their prospective packages.

    While a potential reunion between Irving and Lakers star LeBron James would have been intriguing from an entertainment standpoint, it likely wouldn't have been a step forward for the 30-year-old. The Lakers and Nets have similar issues with veteran-laden rosters and defensive ineptitude, so a move out West wouldn't have helped Irving in the pursuit of his second championship ring.

Nets Have 1-Year Window for NBA Championship

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    Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

    It's safe to say that the Nets have failed to meet expectations since signing Irving and star forward Kevin Durant three years ago. Brooklyn now faces a one-year window to win the NBA championship the franchise has been chasing for so long.

    StatMuse @statmuse

    Brooklyn wins since the addition of Kyrie and Durant:<br><br>2020 — 35<br>2021 — 48<br>2022 — 44<br>2023 — ?? <a href="https://t.co/oM04NebYrY">pic.twitter.com/oM04NebYrY</a>

    On paper, Durant and Irving are the most potent offensive duo in the NBA. Both of them have missed significant playing time during their tenures in Brooklyn for various reasons. Durant was limited to 55 games last season because of multiple injuries, while Irving played in just 29 games because of a combination of injuries, personal absences and his decision not to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

    In 44 regular-season games together, Durant averaged 27.0 points, while Irving averaged 26.1 points. Brooklyn has a 27-17 record when they both play. Another year together should only benefit their chemistry and will likely propel the Nets to success, provided they both can stay on the floor.

    A healthy Nets team will be among the top contenders in the Eastern Conference next year. Brooklyn will also be getting three-point sharpshooter Joe Harris back from injury after he played in just 14 games last year. Ben Simmons is expected to get back to playing after he missed the entire season while nursing injuries and addressing his mental health. The Nets should also be extra motivated after the Boston Celtics swept them in the first round of this year's playoffs.

    While the East is not an easy slate with the Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers all set to reload for next season, Durant and Irving give the Nets their best chance at getting through the tough road to make it to the promised land of the NBA Finals.

Kevin Durant's Long-Term Future in Brooklyn Remains Unclear

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Speaking of Durant, he's starting to become the sympathetic figure in the drama that surrounds the Nets. Before Irving made his decision, Durant said he would refuse to get involved in the issues between the two sides, but the situation couldn't have been easy for him to watch from afar.

    Irving is the main reason Durant is even in Brooklyn. After a dominant run with the Golden State Warriors that included trips to three straight NBA Finals, Durant chose to join Irving in signing with the Nets, simply because of his desire to play alongside his friend. Now, it appears that Irving is set to abandon him in 2023.

    When healthy, Durant is arguably the best player in the NBA. The 12-time All-Star should be the centerpiece of a successful franchise, but instead he's had to sit through the circus of the last year largely brought on by Irving. It's hard to imagine that Durant wants to go through that for the remainder of his career.

    After signing a four-year, $194.2 million extension last offseason, Durant is under contract through 2025-26. But if the off-court drama persists and the Nets continue to fall short of title contention, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Durant force his way out of Brooklyn. Potentially losing both Irving and Durant would be a massive setback for the Nets.

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