NEW YORK — Since Kevin Durant rescinded his trade request from the organization in August, many have puzzled if he would reboot it ought to he as soon as once more lose religion within the group.
Instead, Kyrie Irving beat him to it.
On Friday, Irving advised the Nets he desires to be moved forward of the Feb. 9 commerce deadline, sources told The Athletic’s Shams Charania. Irving is making $35 million within the remaining yr of his preliminary four-year contract with the crew after opting into his player option last June. That choice got here after Irving sought and did not discover a sign-and-trade situation that might yield him a brand new long-term deal.
When the Nets refused to supply Irving a max contract then, he solely discovered an absence of curiosity leaguewide. Will issues be any totally different now?
Irving’s choice is the newest in an extended line of headlines he’s made since leaving the Celtics for the Nets in 2019. Irving’s time in Brooklyn has been outlined by an absence of availability (he’s performed in 143 of the Nets’ 277 regular-season video games; for comparability, he performed in 127 regular-season video games for the Celtics in two seasons) and hypotheticals as a substitute of title banners. In November, he was suspended for eight games for selling an antisemitic documentary and twice refusing to sentence it. That got here after a season by which Irving performed simply 29 video games after his refusal to adjust to New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate; he was introduced again for road games only in January earlier than the city-wide mandate was lifted in March. Irving’s lack of dedication was sufficient to get James Harden to ask for a trade to Philadelphia in trade for Ben Simmons. Like Harden, Irving made his request when Durant was damage.
Kyrie Irving is obtainable for the Nets tomorrow in opposition to the Wizards. Both Ben Simmons and TJ Warren are listed as questionable.
— Alex Schiffer (@Alex__Schiffer) February 3, 2023
After Durant went down with a sprained proper MCL in early January, Irving was requested why this season’s stretch would go higher than the 5-16 one with out his operating mate final yr.
“I’m consistently in the lineup that helps,” Irving mentioned. “We also don’t have halfway-in anyone in the locker room and there’s a primary focus on the big picture here. These are warm-up games the big performances come in late in April. Just have to enjoy it and smile at how you lose and be able to pick yourself back up.”
“I’m doing the best job I can,” he continued. “I wish I may make a number of extra pictures inside the minutes and be environment friendly. I do know that may come and I’ll proceed to organize one of the best ways I understand how and be a greater instance for the fellows within the locker room.
Irving’s feedback solely held up for thus lengthy. Less than a month after taking a thinly veiled shot at Harden, Irving is following an analogous playbook hoping to comply with Harden out the door.
Throughout all of this, the Nets have caught with Irving. Is this the time they half with him for good? Doing so would appear to point them urgent the reset button on an period full of hypothetical greatness.
When Durant reaffirmed his dedication to the group in August, the discuss round Sunset Park was that every one the Nets wanted was to see their roster on the courtroom collectively. Their full potential was on show in December, when the crew went 12-1 and rose towards the highest of the Eastern Conference standings.
Since then? Durant obtained damage a bit greater than every week into the brand new yr with an MCL sprain and is aiming to return within the subsequent two weeks. Ben Simmons is out with knee soreness regardless of a clear MRI. T.J. Warren, their low-risk, high-reward minimal signing, is out with a shin contusion. Without Durant, the Nets are 4-7.
They have seen Irving get named an All-Star starter alongside Durant for his efforts. He’s performed in 40 video games, greater than he did final season (29) and in his first season (20) as a Net, and is averaging 27.1 factors, 5.1 rebounds and 5.3 assists per sport on 48 % capturing. Irving’s expertise is as obvious and omnipresent because the drama.
Reporting on Kyrie Irving’s commerce request with the Nets and two of the explanation why: pic.twitter.com/dRZcm03YP2
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) February 3, 2023
Maybe the larger query is can the Nets even keep on with him at this level? We’ve seen what occurs to groups once they know considered one of their stars has one foot out the door. (It’s not good.) Can the Nets proceed to operate in the event that they maintain onto Irving via Thursday’s deadline? This season, the Nets have handled considered one of Irving’s controversies already, and people on the crew for longer have much more expertise with Irving firestorms. What’s another?
Irving’s request comes contemporary off a blowout loss to his former team, the Boston Celtics, on Wednesday at TD Garden. During Irving’s time in Boston, he was impatient together with his younger, however proficient teammates in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. He left they usually made the Finals with out him. Unlike the Nets, the Celtics seemed primed to take action for the approaching years.
When requested concerning the Nets’ efficiency in opposition to the Celtics, Irving nearly sounded wistful when speaking about his former crew.
“It’s clear as day that they want to win the championship and they’re not wasting any time in the regular season,” Irving mentioned. “So tonight I just felt like we were just one of those teams in the way, and we just can’t be one of those teams in a way; we’ve got to be one of those teams that stands up to them and at least shows them that we’re gonna be competition for them moving forward, which I believe we are. But tonight we just didn’t show it.”
Granting Irving’s wish is simpler mentioned than performed. On one hand, as a rental he presents the least quantity of danger a crew may tackle in any sort of deal. But given the yr he’s had and his stretch in Brooklyn, would executives reasonably hold their property than danger all of it for a participant as proficient as Irving is on the courtroom however as unpredictable off of it?
Finally, are the Nets content material letting Irving depart for nothing when their asset cabinet is sort of naked? They can try and take a drama-filled crew into the playoffs, as they did final yr, and see the place it goes. Or, they’ll commerce him, which would appear to point the start of the tip of this “greatest” period that wasn’t. The Durant-Irving partnership has yielded only one playoff collection win. Are the Nets in a position to hold the crew collectively to even match that this spring?
Once once more, the commerce deadline clock is ticking and a Nets star desires out. After a number of months within the solar, the cloud of uncertainty across the group has returned.
Roundtable: Now that Kyrie Irving has requested trade, where does he fit? What does it mean for Nets?
(Photo of Kyrie Irving: David L. Nemec / NBAE through Getty Images)