Now Kyrie Irving Wants Out Of Brooklyn
3:23 PM EST on February 3, 2023
It is time once again to reset the Days Since Kyrie Irving Destabilized The Brooklyn Nets counter to zero, from some number distressingly shy of three digits. Shams Charania of The Athletic reported Friday afternoon that Irving has requested a trade ahead of next week's deadline.
According to Bleacher Report's Chris Haynes, Irving and the Nets had been discussing an extension of his current max-value contract, which ends after the conclusion of this season. Those talks have now reportedly broken down, hence the trade request.
Irving is now the third Brooklyn Nets superstar to demand a trade in just the last 12 months. James Harden engineered his way to the Philadelphia 76ers in February 2022. Kevin Durant issued and then later retracted a trade demand during a rocky summer offseason, after attempting to convince owner Joe Tsai to blow up the team's front office. Now Irving, who over the summer opted into this final year of the four-year extension he signed with the Nets back in 2019, is asking out. If the Nets do trade him, they'll have gone from having one of the most impressively credentialed Big Threes of the modern era to having a trapped 34-year-old Durant paired with the baffling and frustrating stylings of Ben Simmons, plus, uh, Nic Claxton.
Irving has played 143 of 277 possible regular-season games for the Nets. He's missed time due to nagging injuries, COVID-19 vaccine stubbornness, and antisemitism, and in three-plus seasons the Nets have won just one single playoff series, only intermittently coming anywhere close to the level of excellence suggested by the pedigree of their top players. What makes this latest development so funny is that before Durant's latest injury, which has cost him most of the past month, for a while the Nets were playing like perhaps the best team in basketball, ripping off 21 wins in 24 games, including 12 straight to close out 2022. And during their present struggles, with Durant on the shelf, Irving has played some of the best basketball of his career. If Irving is still in the fold when Durant returns to action, the Nets have a decent shot at a title! And now this!
You can easily understand how the two sides might be at an impasse, contract-wise. Irving naturally considers himself a max-level player worthy of a deal of any length. Even with all the headaches, he's still a sublimely talented offensive player, but the Nets are naturally wary of committing too much to him considering how tenuous his commitment to the team and basketball has been over the past few years. The NBA's luxury tax structure makes it very painful, even without a hard salary cap, to commit a bunch of money to a player who isn't reliably available, and no superstar in the league has so consistently manufactured reasons for why he cannot take the floor.
It's that uncertainty about Irving, and how often he tends to let his YouTube spelunking interfere with a given season, that might make talent-starved teams around the league hesitate to offer up juicy packages in trades for the couple of months left on his existing contract. Maybe the Nets call Irving's bluff, refuse to trade him, and the two sides have to play out the remainder of this season in an unhappy détente, without any sense of what comes after. Whatever happens, I can say with total confidence that the conclusion will be completely ridiculous.
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