The final episode of Kyrie Irving’s tenure with the Nets has now come to an end.
Irving decided to choose the final year of his four-year contract with the Nets before Wednesday’s deadline, his stepmother and agent Shetellia Riley Irving told The New York Times.
Irving will earn $36.5 million next season.
“Normal people keep the world alive, but those who dare to be different lead us into tomorrow,” Kyrie Irving said in a statement to The Athletic that first announced Irving’s decision. “I made the decision to participate. See you in the fall.”
Once Irving formally signs his contract for the 2022-23 season, the two sides will have until the end of June 2023 to agree on an extension that could cost near the veteran player’s maximum salary. The Nets will also be able to trade Irving once he officially agrees.
As the season ended, Irving reaffirmed his commitment to the Nets and Kevin Durant. Given the opportunity to do so, CEO Sean Marks did not reciprocate.
“I think we know what we are looking for,” Marks said. “We are looking for guys who want to come here and be part of something bigger than themselves, play selflessly, play team basketball and be approachable. It’s not just about Kairi, it’s about everyone here.”
Irving was eligible for a maximum contract extension this season, but he and the Nets never reached an agreement.
Irving returns to join Durant, a 12-time All-Star and 2014 League Most Valuable Player award winner.
“When I say I’m here with Kev, I think what it really implies is that we’ll be running the franchise together with Joe and Sean,” Irving said, referring to team owner Joe Tsai after ” The Nets lost to the Boston Celtics in April in the first round of the playoffs.
Irving and Durant came to Brooklyn in the summer of 2019, avoiding the Knicks, who created space for a salary cap that summer to sign superstars. The promise made by their union will be put on hold: Durant was still recovering from an Achilles tendon injury he sustained during the 2019 NBA Finals and will miss the entire 2019-20 season.
The Nets were ready to wait. Both players signed four-year contracts; they would have a lot of time together.
That season was cut short by the pandemic and Irving only played 20 games, due in part to a right shoulder injury. The Nets went into the so-called league bubble at Walt Disney World with no players and lost in the first round of the playoffs.
Durant returned for the 2020-21 season cured and as dangerous to opponents as ever. The Nets traded for James Harden in January 2021, creating what many thought was an unbeatable superteam.
They finished second in the East and nearly advanced to the conference finals, losing in seven games to the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round.
Then the pandemic made things worse again.
Ahead of the 2021-22 season, Irving chose not to get vaccinated against the coronavirus despite a New York City ordinance that prevented him from playing in Brooklyn without a shot. The NBA required teams to follow local vaccine regulations.
The Nets initially stated that he would not be allowed to play until he qualified for all games. Seeing the losses add up to their record, they reversed course and allowed Irving to play in arenas where he was eligible. He made his season debut on January 1st. 5.
For a while, the Nets did well, despite Irving’s long absence. Durant, who signed a four-year extension before the start of the season, helped the team finish second in the East on the day Irving made his season debut.
Durant then dislocated his knee, leaving Harden as the only star available. Harden was annoyed by Irving and eventually asked for a trade. The Nets sent him to Philadelphia, acquiring Ben Simmons shortly before the trade deadline.
Simmons had not yet played for the Nets and underwent back surgery in May.
In March, New York City Mayor Eric Adams changed a city ordinance barring Irving from playing in Brooklyn just in time for baseball season, making an exception for professional athletes and entertainers. Irving made his home debut on March 27.
In total, Irving played in 29 regular season games last season.
When he played, he showed glimpses of the brilliance that made him a desirable player in the past. He scored 60 points in the March 15 win in Orlando, 50 points in the March 8 win in Charlotte, and 43 points in the March 23 win in Memphis.
But his return didn’t come soon enough to give the Nets the chemistry they need to succeed in the playoffs.