Quick question for everybody. Is anyone surprised by this? How could you be after what their GM Sean Marks came out and said just two weeks ago
Well now that we are inching closer and closer to guys having to make their decisions about player options and whether or not they'll hit the market this summer, of course the extension piece is going to come up again. As a reminder, when you are a player of Kyrie's caliber (and this is also true for Harden in Philly), we see that player turn down their final year player option and then immediately sign a long term extension. Kevin Durant just did this. We get the tweet that a player has declined their option, Twitter goes nuts even though we all know it's a formality, and then the Shams/Woj bomb comes announcing the extension. We're also hearing the same thing with Bradley Beal
To do that, Beal is going to have to decline his player option this summer.
Here's where the Nets are a little stuck and why getting into the Kyrie Irving business can get tricky. If they have no interest in offering Kyrie an extension, he has the ability to leave in free agency and the team gets nothing. Sure there's a sign and trade option, but are we sure any team out there is willing to give Kyrie a long term deal, let alone give up assets for him? If he does walk for nothing, the Nets have $121M already committed to their books for next season. The salary cap is $122M. Don't forget, Ben Simmons is slated to make $35M next season. They simply do not have the available resources to replace Kyrie's talent, unless they can somehow do that by also trading Simmons, which again, seems highly unlikely.
They also have to be careful about Kevin Durant. In that same story there was this little nugget
according to multiple sources, Durant and the Nets front office have not spoken since they were swept out of the first round.
For all we know, this is normal. What could they possibly have to talk about at this point in the NBA calendar? It's not like they can do anything in terms of their roster/extensions/trades etc right now. They know Durant is committed because they signed his extension last year. They know he's loyal as shit to Kyrie and wants to play with him. But that's also why they have to be careful here. We've learned that just because someone signed a long term extension no longer means shit in today's NBA. Guys are demanding to be traded with multiple years left. While it seems INSANE that Durant would do such a thing this summer when his 4 year $194M extension is slated to start in the 2022-23 season, who knows what to think anymore.
If Kyrie walks, is it so insane to think that in his age 34 season Durant is going to look around and see his best teammate is Ben Simmons with no picks/cap space available to try and build a competitive roster and maybe he decides this is NOT where he wants to play the back 9 of his career?
Then you look at things from Kyrie's side. I'm sure he wants a long term commitment given his injury history and talent level, but just look at the available teams with legit space. Why would they want to get into the Kyrie Irving business?
Think of where each of those teams are in terms of their rebuild/roster. They all either have young franchise point guards already on the roster, or Damian Lillard. Given all the uncertainty and the drama, I think we're most likely headed to Kyrie picking up that $37M option for next season and then hoping he has a bounce back year and the market is much more favorable to him next summer. For a guy with a huge injury concern that seems crazy, but I'm not sure what other option he has.
The Nets have their own fair share of risk too though. In the end, it may not be worth the potential risk of having to do a complete rebuild if they opt to get out of the Kyrie Irving business. Maybe it's just easier to give him an extension so Durant is happy, and then if shit goes wrong you can always trade him. If there's one thing we have learned, it's that no NBA contract is untradeable, Kyrie did threaten to retire if traded so that's a little bit of an issue, but even if you have to take 50 cents on the dollar, that might end up being the more favorable choice than hoping Durant doesn't get frustrated and demands out. Unless Durant tells the organization that he is never leaving no matter what, they are in a sense being held hostage. There's no real great answer to this problem.
Which brings me back to the overall point of committing your future and title hopes to Kyrie Irving. It's a gigantic gamble. When he first joins your team, you are willing to do everything and anything to ignore his history and believe it'll be different now that he's on the team you care about. Cavs fans did it, myself and Celtics fans did it, Nets fans did it when he first got there. It's because his talent is so intoxicating that you can't help yourself. But as time goes by, if you were to ask those same fans if they would want their favorite team to make that same choice again, I'm pretty sure almost everyone says no. The juice doesn't appear to be worth the squeeze no matter how awesome his handles are.
If I were Sean Marks, I'd first see what the possibility is of Kyrie signing a smaller extension in terms of years. Maybe a 2+1 or if you get lucky, a 1+1. It gives him some initial security, it gives him another player option, and if he's able to stay healthy/rebuild his market, he has a chance to get that additional extension sooner. I'm then calling around to just make sure any of the teams that were rumored to be in the Ben Simmons ordeal might still be interested. Are we sure the Hawks wouldn't pick up the phone for example?
All this does is show you how quickly things can change in the NBA. One minute you look like you might be on the brink of a dynasty where you are loaded with talent and are talked about as a title contender. Now, just 2-3 seasons into this experiment and Harden was traded for a guy who didn't play all year and we're talking about how the Nets don't really want to invest in Kyrie long term and if Durant would demand a trade. That's crazy.