The NBA rumor mill has been relatively quiet with six days to go until the Feb. 9 NBA trade deadline. Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving appears motivated to change that.
On Friday, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that Irving has informed the Nets that he “prefers to move on” ahead of the trade deadline “or will leave in free agency in July.” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski confirmed Irving’s desire to to be traded ahead of Thursday’s deadline.
The Nets overcame a choppy start to the season—fueled by Irving’s team-issued suspension after he shared an anti-Semitic film on social media and initially showed no remorse about doing so—to go 18-2 over a 20-game stretch from late November through early January. They had climbed all the way to the No. 2 seed in the East, trailing the Boston Celtics by only one game, when Kevin Durant suffered an MCL sprain against the Miami Heat on Jan. 8.
In Durant’s absence, the Nets have gone 4-7, including an embarrassing 139-96 blowout loss to the Boston Celtics on Wednesday. Irving has averaged 30.3 points on 48.0 percent shooting, 6.9 assists, 5.7 rebounds and 3.6 made three-pointers over that stretch, including a 48-point masterclass against the Utah Jazz, but it hasn’t been enough to keep the Nets afloat.
Durant isn’t the only member of the Nets who’s been sidelined as of late. Ben Simmons has missed the team’s last three games because of knee soreness, while T.J. Warren has been out for that same span with a shin contusion. Although fourth-year center Nic Claxton is in the midst of a career year, the Nets are otherwise asking Irving to carry the likes of Royce O’Neale, Joe Harris and Day’Ron Sharpe in recent games, which has gone exactly how you’d expect it would.
A few weeks ago, Irving’s agent—his mother, Shetellia Irving—spoke with Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes about his long-term future with the Nets.
“Around Kyrie and staying with the Nets? I have reached out to the Nets regarding this,” she said. “We have had no significant conversations to date. The desire is to make Brooklyn home, with the right type of extension, which means the ball is in the Nets’ court to communicate now if their desire is the same.”
That apparently backfired.
“The Nets recently offered Irving an extension with guarantee stipulations,” Charania reported Friday. Citing “sources with direct knowledge of the negotiations,” he added that “the extension offer was not well received and that there have been principle differences that have emerged between the Nets and Irving.”
The Nets originally gave Irving permission to seek a sign-and-trade last summer before the deadline to pick up his $36.9 million player option. He eventually picked up the option, which ensured he’d become an unrestricted free agent this summer unless he and the Nets reached an extension beforehand.
Given all the Nets have been through with him in recent years—from his two-week hiatus during the 2020-21 season for personal reasons to his refusal to get a COVID-19 vaccine last year, thus preventing him from playing in home games—it’s hard to blame them for being reluctant to hand him a big-money, long-term extension. Regardless of whether the Nets trade him by the deadline, it’s difficult to imagine any team willing to cough up that type of money this summer.
The Los Angeles Lakers loom as one potential suitor for Irving, particularly after their recent acquisition of Rui Hachimura from the Washington Wizards. Prior to acquiring Hachimura, they were in line to have roughly $30 million of cap space this summer, which would have allowed them to sign Irving outright in free agency if so desired. With Hachimura’s $18.8 million cap hold now expected to be on their books, they’d be better off operating as an over-the-cap team this summer. Acquiring Irving now—and thus securing his Bird rights, which would allow them to re-sign him even if they’re over the cap—is a far easier path than trying to negotiate a sign-and-trade.
The Los Angeles Clippers, who’ve reportedly been hunting for a point guard in recent weeks, could also be a team of interest. They have plenty of medium-sized contracts that could serve as salary filler in an Irving trade, although it’s fair to wonder whether they want to inherit the inevitable headaches that come with him. Perhaps the Miami Heat or Minnesota Timberwolves might look to join in on the bidding, using Kyle Lowry or D’Angelo Russell as the main salary heading out? Maybe the Dallas Mavericks, who are desperate to add talent around Luka Doncic, get into the mix as well?
There’s never a quiet day in the NBA, huh?