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Nets have to figure out Kyrie Irving’s future – or blow it up

Remember this old chestnut from Samuel Clemens, better known to fans of literature as Mark Twain: “If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.” 

If Twain were a columnist for The New York Post in 2022, he might be able to paraphrase himself: “If you know what Kyrie Irving is going to do/think/say … just wait a few minutes.” 

Or a few months, anyway. Back in April, after the Nets had covered themselves in gory by getting swept out of the NBA playoffs by the Celtics — and now that the playoffs are over, we can carve into the record books that Celtics-Nets was the only sweep of the 2022 playoffs — Irving had this to say: 

“I don’t really plan on going anywhere.” 

He added: “I think for me, it has always been about being comfortable loving where I’m at, and I love it here. Once that summertime hits, I know that we’ll have some conversations, but there’s no way I could leave my man 7.” 

That would be Kevin Durant, his would-be running partner, with whom he’s run precious little in the three years since they attempted to tilt the capital of professional basketball toward Brooklyn. In the moment, it seemed almost conciliatory, an acknowledgment that he and Durant (and, presumably, eventually, Ben Simmons) have some unfinished business to tend to. 

Suddenly, with the reality of free agency a week and a half away, there is word that talks between Irving and the Nets on a contract extension have stalled. This could be true; you have to think the Nets’ brass, at the least, feels compelled to take a long and hard look at whether it wants to keep doing business with a player who — regardless of how you feel about mandatory vaccinations — willfully sabotaged the Nets’ 2021-22 season.

Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (L) and teammate Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (R) react on their team bench
Kyrie Irving’s contract status will force the Nets to look at their future.

It could be posturing, and as long as Irving is part of the equation that is certainly a possibility. 

What we know is this: it is Irving who holds most of the cards in this, Irving who owns a player’s option for this year worth $36.9 million (which he must exercise by June 29), Irving who can simply decide to throw himself back into the open market, a market that could yield him a starting annual salary in excess of $41 million.