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Windhorst: Nets Wanted Kyrie Irving to Pick Up Option to Ease New Contract Pressures

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJune 28, 2022

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Brooklyn Nets governor Joe Tsai was reportedly willing to lose both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to avoid another drama-filled season.

ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported Tuesday on The Hoop Collective podcast Tsai wasn't happy with the "emotional toll" of the 2021-22 campaign (9:34 mark):

"As bad as it would be to lose probably two Hall of Famers—I think Kyrie will be a Hall of Famer and Durant being one of the great players of all time—that [Tsai] didn't want a repeat of that ... I kind of thought that the Nets wanted Kyrie to opt in to the contract because it would remove the pressure of the extension."

Irving confirmed to Shams Charania of Stadium and The Athletic on Monday he picked up the $36.9 million option in his contract for 2022-23 to remain with the Nets.

Brooklyn opened last season without Irving, a decision made by the front office since the point guard wouldn't be eligible to play home games because of New York City's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for large-scale events.

In October, Tsai told ESPN's Ohm Youngmisuk he was a major advocate for vaccination and lamented the fact it had become a political argument.

"I don't think it's a matter of belief," Tsai said. "I think it's a matter of fact. It's science."

He added: "I just think that it's cavalier for people to hijack something like this when life and death is at stake. People shouldn't make it into a political issue."

Irving returned in early January because the Nets were struggling with a series of injuries and COVID-related absences. He didn't become a full-time player until late March when NYC lifted the mandate.

His uncertain status for most of the year, Durant missing 27 games because of injuries, James Harden being traded to the Philadelphia 76ers and Ben Simmons, who was acquired from the Sixers, being unable to return because of a back injury made for a frustrating season in Brooklyn.

In turn, after entering the year with championship-level expectations, the Nets went 44-38 and were swept in the first round by the Boston Celtics.

Irving's decision to opt in combined with the potential return of Simmons could pave the way for a bounce-back year for Brooklyn.

That said, the Nets only have three players under guaranteed contract beyond next season (Durant, Simmons and Joe Harris), so it's possible the front office could shake things up in a major way if it turns into another disappointing year.

The Nets have swung for the fences in pursuit of a title since Tsai, who Forbes estimates to have a net worth of $9.1 billion, took over sole possession of the franchise in 2019 (he previously owned a minority stake). They've won just one playoff series during his tenure, though.

While Durant and Irving remain with the Nets, it sounds like Tsai is ready to green light a reconstruction if the talent-laden roster doesn't produce results with fewer headaches in 2022-23.

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