Months after Kyrie Irving said that there was “no way” he could leave Kevin Durant and the Nets, it appears that the star guard is considering leaving Brooklyn.
It has been reported that Irving is at an “impasse” with the Nets ahead of NBA free agency. The Athletic’s Shams Charania reports that talks between the sides have grown “stagnant” as they try to negotiate a long-term contract.
Irving has a $36.9 million player option for the 2022-23 season and must decide by June 29 whether to exercise it. If he opts out, he has a list of six teams aside from the Nets that he would consider joining.
Irving’s potential departure would have a big impact on Durant, who is under contract with the Nets through the 2025-26 season. Will Durant look to convince Irving to stay in Brooklyn? He said on the ETC podcast that he isn’t looking to influence Irving.
“There’s no involvement at all,” Durant said of having a possible role in Irving’s decision. “I mean, I can’t be involved with this man’s livelihood, you know? This is much bigger than me. Being a free agent is one of the most important times in your career. That can’t be swayed by anybody else. I just do me and wait for the time.
“There’s nothing that can happen right now. I don’t think he can even make a decision on opting out until the 29th, I think. So I just kind of let things play out and see what happens. Keep the regular contact with Ky and we’ll see what happens.
“It’s something that’s so much out of my control that I don’t want to be a part of it. We’ll see what happens, though.”
Durant may not be trying to influence Irving’s decision, but he is reportedly “considering options with his future” amid the uncertainty about Irving. If Irving decides to leave, Durant could demand a trade, but his four-year, $194.22 million contract would be a complication.
However, if Kyrie Irving moves on from the Nets, we have an idea where he could end up.
Ahead of the 2022 NBA Draft, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news that Irving has a list of teams he would like the Nets to consider for a sign-and-trade deal if he cannot reach an agreement to stay in Brooklyn.
Six of the teams reportedly included on Irving’s list: the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, Nets, Mavericks and 76ers.
Wojnarowski also added that while Irving is said to have interest in those teams that does not necessarily mean he is a priority for each one of them.
With that being the case, which one would be a perfect match?
Ranking the teams reportedly on Kyrie Irving’s wishlist
Interesting, as it would be to see Irving play next to a pair of elite two-way players in Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers already have the makings of a contender without him.
They might be better off sticking with what they have — two A-listers surrounded by a perfect complement of role players — rather than chasing a “Big Three.”
A few months ago, Irving would have been a fascinating addition to the 76ers. Now that James Harden is on the team and expected to come to terms on an extension, it is trickier.
Not only is there the question of whether Irving, Harden and Joel Embiid could coexist, but it also did not seem like Irving and Harden ended their time together in Brooklyn on the best of terms.
Unless this is a Harden-or-Irving thing, it is hard to see Philly as a realistic option.
Irving would be the biggest star the Knicks have had in a long time, but it sounds like he is not their priority right now. According to Wojnarowski, New York’s motivation to clear cap space is to pursue Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson in free agency, not necessarily to acquire Irving.
That could change in the weeks and months to come, of course. Irving would certainly bring a lot of excitement to the Garden, but we have seen what a team built around him looks like. He alone probably is not enough to drastically change the franchise’s fortunes.
Who doesn’t want to see Irving and LeBron James reunited?
Their first run as teammates was quite successful — three straight trips to the NBA Finals and one of the most iconic championships in league history. LeBron is now in his late 30s, but he (somehow) remains one of the league’s best players. The two of them together would still be a nightmare to defend, and a healthy Anthony Davis would only add to that.
The problem? There’s a lot of unknown with the Lakers right now. They have to rebuild their supporting cast from scratch this offseason and they still have to figure out what they are doing with Russell Westbrook.
The Lakers are an interesting option for Irving, but they may not the most interesting.
This is an admittedly tricky fit. Irving has played next to plenty of stars in his career, but pairing him with perhaps the most ball-dominant player in the NBA today could lead to some feathers being ruffled.
Yet, if Luka Doncic and Irving could figure it out, it is easy to imagine them having a similar dynamic as the one Irving did with LeBron in Cleveland. He would be the Robin to Doncic’s Batman.
That is, practically impossible to defend.
The only thing preventing the Mavericks from being a spot higher on this list is that Doncic and Irving would make for a defensively challenged duo. A lot of pressure would be on the front office to find the right combination around them to make up for their shortcomings on that end of the court.
The Heat are a defensive-minded team that can run cold offensively. How about adding one of the league’s most dynamic scorers to their core?
It would be fascinating to see how Irving would adjust to playing for a franchise famous for its no-nonsense culture, but a trio featuring him, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo would pack quite a punch.
Remember, the Heat were a Butler 3-pointer away from making their second trip to the Finals in three seasons. Maybe Irving could help them get back to the mountaintop.
The icing on the cake: Miami is said to have been on Irving’s radar before, and it sounds like he and Butler have talked about teaming up before. If nothing else, it should not come as a shock that the Heat are on his wishlist.