Despite the Nets and Kyrie Irving hitting an impasse in their talks, both sides are still working to find a happy medium in Brooklyn rather than an exit strategy out of it. Or as a source told The Post “what’s good for both [sides].”
The stalemate in contract talks between the Nets and their enigmatic All-Star isn’t the first, and it may not be the last. Considering Irving’s history with the Nets — or more accurately, his unavailability for them — ensured what was already going to be a complicated negotiation was going to have fits and starts.
These recent reports are the former. First came an earlier tabloid story stating the Nets were “outright unwilling” to give Irving a long-term extension to Monday’s report in the Athletic of “an impasse.” Now comes a Bleacher Report story that dialogue is “expected to be fluid in the lead-up to his decision.”
That decision would include having a June 29 deadline to pick up his $36.9 million player option for next season. Declining it doesn’t ensure Irving’s departure, because he can still ink an extension. And picking it up doesn’t guarantee he’s staying, since it could make moving via trade easier.
While any trade of Irving would probably be a complex three-or four-team deal and be more likely to occur before Thursday’s draft than after it, it’s still not likely.
Several league sources said the perception is that this is a game of poker being played by Irving to bluff Nets GM Sean Marks into concessions, as The Post reported Monday. An ESPN report Tuesday concurred, and most around the league feel a return to Brooklyn is the most probable end result.
Irving has expressed a desire — both during the regular season and again after their first-round playoff exit — to stay in Brooklyn. And the Nets are the only team that can offer him a five-year, $245.6 million contract. But that’s exactly what sources have intimated is at the crux of the matter.
With Irving having played just 103 of 226 possible regular-season games since arriving in Brooklyn — missing time not just to unavoidable injuries, but to personal leaves and refusing to get vaccinated for COVID-19 — both The Post and others reported that the Nets are intent on protecting themselves in any extension.
Brooklyn can make up to 15 percent of Irving’s next contract — about $6 million — payable as “unlikely bonuses,” affording 10 times the protection in his current deal. But sources implied the length of the deal is more of a sticking point than the money; Irving wants a longer contract, while the Nets prefer a shorter one.
As such, whispers that Irving could become available made their way around the league since last month’s NBA Draft Combine, according to Bleacher Report.
The Athletic cited the crosstown rivals Knicks as having interest in Irving, as well as both Los Angeles teams. But the Lakers and Clippers would almost certainly have to acquire him via a sign-and-trade, which would leave them hard-capped. (Irving picking up his option beforehand eliminates that concern, which is why it would be the most likely avenue should he leave via trade).
Knicks Tom Thibodeau is a fan of Irving, but according to Bleacher Report their priority is signing Dallas free agent Jalen Brunson. And while it’s theoretically possible for the Knicks to clear enough cap space to ink Irving as an unrestricted free agent if he opts out, it would necessitate stretching contracts, making salary dumps and essentially moving mountains.
Brooklyn assistant Jordan Ott is leaving to join new Lakers coach Darvin Ham’s staff. The move was first reported by ESPN and confirmed by The Post. It leaves four assistant openings, with one expected to go to ex-Suns head coach Igor Kokoškov.
While still an assistant, the move will be into a more prominent role for Ott on the front of the Lakers’ bench. He will also be a significant hit for the Nets, as Ott coached in last year’s Las Vegas Summer League, wore a number of hats on Steve Nash’s staff and had a tough job as de facto offensive coordinator for a team often lacking shooters.