AP Photo/Evan Vucci
If Kyrie Irving is looking to opt out of his contract with the Brooklyn Nets to sign a big multiyear deal, then he might want to think twice.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported Thursday on Get Up that “no teams [are] making moves right now to try to clear space to try to make a path to give Kyrie Irving a big contract.”
Windhorst added that the New York Knicks’ pursuit of a point guard is focused more on either trading up to land Purdue’s Jaden Ivey or clearing salary-cap space to sign restricted free agent Jalen Brunson.
On Monday, The Athletic’s Shams Charania first reported on the “impasse” between Irving and the Nets, with the Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers listed as potential suitors were he to leave Brooklyn.
Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer followed up Tuesday and reported sides “still have ground to cover for both sides to emerge content on extension conversations.” Whereas Irving wants a longer contract, the Nets prefer a short-term deal with incentives.
Windhorst explained Thursday how “Kyrie’s intentions in looking elsewhere is really to apply pressure to the Nets, not that he wants to leave anywhere.”
Coming off Brooklyn’s first-round sweep to the Boston Celtics, the seven-time All-Star gave the impression he intended to return, though he sent similar signals before in what proved to be his final year with the Celtics.
The Nets don’t have a ton of leverage because losing Irving in free agency or a sign-and-trade inevitably means getting worse. They don’t have the cap space to sign another star, and trading Irving probably means taking 50 cents on the dollar.
And if Irving were to go, it would have potentially significant consequences. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday that some teams are “rooting for Irving to opt out and walk away from the Nets, believing it would give them a chance to cobble together trade packages to acquire [Kevin] Durant.”
The trouble for Irving is that he doesn’t have a ton of leverage, either.
The 30-year-old’s stock is as low as it’s ever been. His decision not to get the COVID-19 vaccine limited him to 29 games in 2021-22, disrupted the Nets’ season and furthered the perception he’s somebody you can’t depend on if he’s supposed to be one of your top stars.
The limited number of franchises projected to have a lot of cap space doesn’t help Irving.
From an outside general manager’s perspective, there might be little appetite to make a series of trades—likely losing draft capital in the process—in order to give a massive contract to a player with Irving’s recent track record. And the extent to which Irving actually wants to leave is unclear too, so all of those moves could be in vain.
As much as Charania and Fischer’s reporting planted the seeds for a potentially messy divorce, the Irving saga could have a rather anticlimactic ending with him staying right where he is.