The Brooklyn Nets reportedly weren't expecting guard Kyrie Irving to pick up his player option for the 2022-23 season.
According to ESPN's Brian Windhorst on the Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective podcast, it was a "total surprise" to the Nets when Irving picked up his option, and they "found out when everybody else did."
Irving announced the decision Monday night, telling Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium (h/t ESPN): "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."
He is set to earn $36.5 million in 2022-23 before becoming a free agent next offseason. While he is in line to return to Brooklyn, Windhorst said he "doesn't know" what will become of the relationship between Irving and the Nets.
The prevailing thought in Brooklyn seemed to be that Irving was as good as gone, especially after ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that he created a list of teams for the Nets to consider dealing him to as part of a sign-and-trade swap.
Before Irving opted in, Windhorst said on ESPN's SportsCenter on Monday that the Nets were "prepared" to lose both him and Kevin Durant.
If Kyrie does indeed stay, however, it would seemingly increase the chances that KD also stays.
The Nets signed Irving and Durant in 2019 with an eye toward winning one or more championships, but they haven't even made it as far as the Eastern Conference Finals.
Making one more run before Irving possibly leaves in free agency next offseason may be appealing to the Nets, especially since they have yet to see how Kyrie and Durant play alongside Ben Simmons.
Simmons didn't appear in a game last season because of injury after the Nets acquired him from the Philadelphia 76ers as part of the James Harden trade, but he is viewed as a good fit thanks to his defensive and playmaking abilities.
A big three of Irving, Durant and Simmons could be a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference, and they have a greater chance of remaining together for at least one season now that Kyrie has opted in.
It is still possible that Irving gets traded, but opting in presents less flexibility than a sign-and-trade and makes it tougher for him to dictate where he would go.
While injuries have nagged Irving in recent years and he missed significant time last season because of not being vaccinated against COVID-19, there is no denying his on-court ability.
He is a seven-time All-Star and one-time NBA champion, as well as one of the most talented players in recent memory. All those factors could make him a target for teams on the trade market, but the odds have seemingly shifted in favor of his spending another year in Brooklyn.