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Time has reportedly not healed the fissure in the relationship between the Brooklyn Nets and Kyrie Irving.
Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported Irving and the Nets are “at an impasse” regarding the All-Star guard’s future with the franchise. Irving reportedly plans to explore leaving Brooklyn in free agency, and the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers are expected to emerge as potential suitors.
Irving seemingly responded to the report on Twitter:
A11Even @Kyrie Irving
The 2021-22 season saw Irving do major damage to his public reputation and massively impact the Nets with his decision to not undergo COVID-19 vaccination. The decision limited Irving to 29 regular-season games as he couldn’t play home games for most of the season under New York City’s vaccination mandate. His continued absence played a factor in James Harden’s requesting a trade to the Philadelphia 76ers at the deadline.
Irving, Harden and Kevin Durant played in only 16 games together thanks in large part to Irving’s unavailability.
Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News reported the Nets have become “outright unwilling” to sign Irving to a new long-term contract. It’s unclear whether that will prove to be the case; frustrations often subside given the time to heal, and Irving remains close with Durant. When asked about his future of him after the Nets were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, Irving indicated he had no plans to leave Brooklyn.
“I don’t really plan on going anywhere. … When I say I’m here with Kev, I think that really entails us managing this franchise together alongside Joe and Sean,” Irving said, referring to Nets governor Joe Tsai and general manager Sean Marks.
The likeliest scenario remains Irving staying in Brooklyn—overwhelmingly so. Even if the franchise has reached a boiling point with Irving, Durant’s happiness is paramount. It’s also highly unlikely the Nets would be to find anyone of Irving’s caliber in a sign-and-trade scenario.
Of the three teams mentioned, only the Knicks have a viable path to signing Irving in free agency—and that would require jettisoning several veteran contracts. The Lakers and Clippers would need Irving to opt in to his contract for the 2022-23 season and then work out a trade with the Nets. A sign-and-trade would be borderline impossible for both franchises to complete because it would hard-cap them for next season, and both teams are expected to be luxury-tax payers.