It’s been a good few days for Kyrie Irving. The Brooklyn Nets guard is scoring at a monstrous rate, headlined by 50- and 60-point outbursts. And starting on Sunday, he’ll be able to play in his first home game of the season.
Despite the headaches, Irving is a generational talent who has the ability to command a massive contract at the end of this season, from Brooklyn or elsewhere. And while Kyrie is saying the right things now, his history proves that the 30-year-old isn’t one who’s set on keeping a promise.
Kyrie Irving said he wants to stay with the Brooklyn Nets
In 2019, the Nets made their boldest acquisitions since executing their ill-fated Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce deal in 2013. Brooklyn signed Irving to a four-year, $136.4 million contract and Kevin Durant to a four-year, $164.2 million deal in the span of two July days.
Since then, Durant has re-affirmed his commitment to the Nets by signing a four-year, $194.2 million extension that keeps him under contract through 2025-26. However, Brooklyn hasn’t received the same commitment from Irving, at least officially. At season’s end, the 2011 top pick can decline his $36.9 million player option and become an unrestricted free agent.
According to Irving, the Nets have nothing to worry about.
Saturday, Irving explained to a field of reporters that his goal is to help build a legacy in Brooklyn. When asked if that meant he was re-signing with the Nets, the seven-time All-Star gave an assuring answer.
“For me, it’s always been about being comfortable and loving where I’m at,” Irving responded (h/t: SNY). “I love it here. So when that summertime hits I know we’ll have some conversations, but there’s no way I could leave my man #7 [Durant] anywhere.”
The three-time All-NBA point guard is certainly doing everything he can to make the Nets want him back. After returning to the team on Jan. 5 due to Brooklyn’s overwhelming number of positive COVID-19 cases, Irving is averaging a career-high 28.5 points and hitting 43.8% of his threes.
Irving once gave the Celtics (and their fans) the same assurance
Kyrie is a mercurial star who marches to the beat of his own drum. It’s been that way since he entered the NBA in 2011 and has continued through his 11th season. If there’s one thing you can expect, it’s the unexpected.
Irving seemingly went on the record to say he wasn’t abandoning Durant. Unless KD suddenly demands a trade, that implies the guard has no intention of leaving the Nets.
Just like he had no intention to leave the Boston Celtics.
Following a six-year stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Irving was traded to the Celtics ahead of the 2017-18 season. The former Duke star wore the Green and White for two seasons before joining Brooklyn in 2019. Yet at one point in time, Kyrie made it known that he was staying with Boston.
In 2018, Irving spoke during a fan event inside TD Garden. With one year left on his contract, the Celtics All-Star was crystal clear regarding his future:
“If you guys will have me back, I plan on re-signing here.”
The following day, Irving doubled down on his previous statement.
“I have every intention of signing with Boston next year. I do have a dream of putting my No. 11 in the rafters one day if I’m so blessed to do that,” Irving said, per NBC Sports Boston. “Obviously a lot of great players have come before me, but to throw my name in Boston Celtics tradition and history is something I’m glad I can do. And I’m planning on doing so.”
Circumstances clearly changed over the course of the season, prompting the star to change his mind and sign with Brooklyn. But his old comments should remind Nets fans that a lot can change in the span of a few weeks.
Kyrie Irving would be making a massive mistake by leaving the Nets
If you ask us today, the smart money is on Irving staying in Brooklyn. Despite last season’s surprise sabbatical and this year’s vaccine debacle, the Nets have stuck by Kyrie’s side. His family is also close by, one of his primary reasons for leaving Boston nearly three years ago.
From a basketball perspective, he’d be foolish to consider playing anywhere else.
Not every combination of superstars can work, but Durant and Irving seem to gel better than most. Their on- and off-court chemistry should allow Brooklyn to remain competitive regardless of its supporting cast.
Speaking of that cast, Irving isn’t going to go many places that also feature an All-Star like Ben Simmons, skilled role players like Seth Curry and Joe Harris, or a progressive head coach like Steve Nash. This season’s 38-35 record aside, a healthy and complete Nets team is always going to be a massive threat to win a wide-open Eastern Conference.
Kyrie also stands to make the most money by staying right where he is. Given his 10+ years of experience, Irving can opt out before July 1 and re-sign on a max deal worth $245.6 million over five years. If he signs elsewhere, the most he could earn is $182.1 million over four years.
But even if Irving says he’s staying and all logic says he’s right to do so, the Nets shouldn’t feel confident until he officially puts pen to paper.