NBA free agency is centered around a player's power to decide his own future, but it's still a two-way street.
Reports are piling on top of each other saying that Kyrie Irving is set on signing with the Brooklyn Nets as an unrestricted free agent this summer. However, the New York Post's Brian Lewis added a plot twist Wednesday night:
"The Post has confirmed Brooklyn might have qualms about signing the enigmatic Irving if he isn’t bringing the injured [Kevin] Durant with him.
Other teams had already backed off of pursuing Irving with similar concerns over the way things went awry in Boston. If the Nets do the same, it would mean keeping [D'Angelo] Russell, who is a younger and cheaper option as a restricted free agent."
The New York Daily News' Anthony Puccio reported June 10—the same date Durant went down with a ruptured Achilles in Game 5 of the NBA Finals—that the Nets are "shooting for the big prize" in pairing Durant and Irving.
Lewis' new report insinuates that Brooklyn's endgame hasn't changed after Durant's devastating injury.
Durant's Achilles may very well have altered plans he reportedly had with Irving, though, according to The Athletic's Frank Isola:
"Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, according to a league source, were planning a vacation at the end of the season; a quick getaway to spend quality time together and map out their respective futures.
Those plans—as well as the entire 2019-20 NBA season, really—changed dramatically when Durant’s Achilles ruptured in Game 5 of the NBA Finals."
Lewis' report was preceded by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski expressing the same sentiment on Get Up Wednesday morning (h/t MassLive.com's John Karalis): "What Brooklyn would like to have is not just Kyrie Irving, but a second star come in with him. Obviously, Kevin Durant is that player. ... If they don't get a second star, it will be interesting to see if Brooklyn wants to have Kyrie Irving as a solo act. That didn't go so great in Boston last year."
While Irving's future in Brooklyn seems tied to Durant, Russell's future in Brooklyn reportedly hinges on Irving.
"If Irving signs with the Nets, SNY sources familiar with the matter say it is highly unlikely that Russell remains with the Nets," SNY's Ian Begley wrote June 14. "Members of the Nets organization have communicated that idea in recent days, per sources."
That isn't all that surprising, as it wouldn't make a ton of sense to bankroll two All-Star point guards.
However, Russell commented to Lewis on the unfolding situation with Irving earlier this month.
"If we're being completely honest, I enjoyed the team that we had this whole season," the 23-year-old said. "If the situation was to come up to have pieces of his caliber around, it'll make us a better team, obviously. But I'm not going to say I didn't enjoy our team and the pieces we had around."
To be fair, Russell never directly named Irving. The disaster that was the 2018-19 Boston Celtics season, which unfolded with Irving at the center of the team's inability to find chemistry, simply open the comments up for interpretation.
Should Brooklyn opt out of the Irving sweepstakes, the 27-year-old shouldn't have trouble finding a team. The Athletic's Sam Amick reported earlier this week that Irving was "still in play" for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Missing out on the Nets because they aren't sold on him as a solo star and landing back alongside with LeBron James would, if nothing else, bring Irving's career full circle.