In the latest sign of both sides digging in their heels, Nets star Kyrie Irving has asked for and received permission to seek out sign-and-trade packages, The Post has confirmed. But so far, he hasn’t found any pursuers other than the Lakers.
Irving has a host of reasons why he’d prefer a sign-and-trade, mainly because he’d not only salvage over $30 million but even earn a 15 percent trade kicker on his way out the door – one that has to get paid by the Nets.
While Brooklyn has refused to hand Irving – who missed 123 of 226 regular-season games since his 2019 arrival – a full five-year, $245 million max contract, they are believed to have offered more than just a one-year deal. There is still plenty of gray area to meet in the middle, but Irving has been disinclined to take less than the max.
When Irving was asked Sunday by Complex.com whether he wanted to remain a Brooklyn Net, he laughed and rather than answer he pointed to his agent and stepmom Shetellia Riley Irving who was standing beside him.
Irving has until Wednesday to pick up his $36 million player option for next season. If he doesn’t, he can become a free agent and sign with another team (like the Lakers for $6 million on the taxpayer MLE) with the Nets getting no compensation. Irving has that as a threat, plus the even more damaging potential of friend Kevin Durant becoming disgruntled and following him out the door.
Durant was at a charity event in Maryland on Monday – the first graduating class from kids on college track at the Durant Center – and is not believed to have had a sit-down with the Nets about their direction in a post-Irving retooling.
Irving had already given Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks a list of a half-dozen teams that he’d prefer to be traded to should they fail to reach an extension: The Clippers, Heat, Knicks, Mavericks, Lakers and 76ers.
But the Knicks not only expect Irving to stay with the Nets but have little interest in him if he doesn’t. They’re targeting Dallas free agent Jalen Brunson – after hiring his father Rick – and would reportedly eye Malcolm Brogdon as a Plan B, according to Bleacher Report.
Any team getting Irving in a sign-and-trade would be hard-capped, which is restrictive. If he opts in by Wednesday and is dealt afterward – even the same day – that would not be the case, making things simpler for the receiving team and still allowing the All-Star to get his $36 million salary and $5.5 million trade kicker.
Irving has gone out of his way to publicly praise LeBron James lately, and talked on the Durant-owned “The ETCs” podcast about how he still speaks with James frequently, that if he’d been more mature in Cleveland they would’ve won more and he likely would have followed James to the Lakers.
That may well be his best landing spot, with the other teams with cap space either rebuilding or uninterested (like the Knicks). The Lakers are the only team pursuing a sign-and-trade, according to ESPN.
But with Durant’s history with Russell Westbrook – and the latter’s declining game and odious $47 million contract for next season – a reunion is unlikely. The Lakers would almost certainly have to loop in a third team to satisfy the Nets. And Durant.
Durant is believed to be in wait-and-see mode on what the return for Irving is. Should he decide to follow suit and request a trade, with four years left on his contract, the return would be a seismic.