The Brooklyn Nets’ offseason started sooner than they expected after the Boston Celtics swept them in the first round of the playoffs. The decisive playoff failure has led to many questions about what GM Sam Marks wants to do regarding Kyrie Irving’s free agency status in 2023.
Heading into the regular season, Irving was among a minority of players unwilling to comply with vaccine mandates before the season. The unpopular decision led Marks and owner Joe Tsai to eventually decide that Irving would be barred from playing or practicing with the Nets until he was “eligible to be a full participant.”
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Irving’s decision also led the Nets’ front office to decide they didn’t want to sign Irving to an extension if Irving opted out of his current deal. A sudden reversal from his past comments that he wanted to re-sign Irving and James Harden long-term heading into the 2021-22 regular season.
“That’s something that we’ve been discussing, and we’ll continue to debrief on and discuss throughout this offseason … we haven’t had any of those discussions yet,” Marks said. “We’re looking for guys that want to come in here and be part of something bigger than themselves, play selfless, play team basketball, and be available. That goes not only for Kyrie but everybody here.”
Via the @BKGlueGuys, @ShamsCharania confirms Kyrie will not be offered an extension:— Alec Sturm (@Alec_Sturm) October 13, 2021
“He was willing to sacrifice, at the end of the day, 16 million dollars in salary this upcoming year and 186 million dollars, as far as an extension, that he will not be offered now.”
Marks and Tsai were adamant about the issue until the NBA experienced an outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. With the Nets besieged by the virus, Marks and Tsai relented and controversially decided that Irving would be allowed to play as a part-time player, making his season debut in January against the Pacers.
It wasn’t until February that Irving’s stance was vindicated when New York City mayor Eric Adams lifted city vaccine mandates, allowing unvaccinated employees of private companies to work within indoor settings.
The Nets ultimately dealt Harden to the 76ers for Ben Simmons at the deadline and ended the regular season as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Nets won their play-in tournament game against the Cavaliers and earned the seventh seed, but as aforementioned, lost to the Celtics in four games.
The disappointing end to the season didn’t stop Irving from expressing his wishes to remain in Brooklyn beyond 2023. During his exit interviews, Irving told reporters he didn’t plan on going anywhere and that he wanted to be involved long-term in building the team with Marks, Tsai, and longtime friend Kevin Durant.
"I don't really plan on going anywhere…. when I say I'm here with Kev [Durant] I think that it really entails us managing this franchise together alongside Joe [Tsai] and Sean [Marks]… we're cornerstones here but we have Ben, we have a few other guys…"— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) April 26, 2022
-Kyrie Irving on FA pic.twitter.com/ulk86MzHTK
Since those remarks, it has been widely reported that Marks hasn’t decided on re-signing Irving to an extension should Irving opt out of the final year of his contract. On Wednesday, Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News reported that Marks and Irving haven’t met since the Nets lost Game 4 to the Nets. Marks’ reluctance is based on Irving’s vaccination status and injury history.
“I look forward to [it],” Marks told YES Network last week via the New York Post’s Brian Lewis. “We have not had a conversation yet. So I look forward to getting in a room with him and Joe and his team, and we will. We’ll see what it looks like for Kyrie moving forward here and what he needs from us and so forth.”
“So, again, it wouldn’t be right for me to comment on what hypothetical could happen because we don’t know. We haven’t had those conversations with Kyrie yet. But when they do, we’ll see if it’s the right fit for both sides.”
Winfield also reported that Marks hasn’t spoken with Durant either.
Irving has until June 29 to decide on his player option worth $36.5 million. He is eligible for up to a five-year, $248 million extension.