The bet last summer was that Kyrie Irving – like Kevin Durant – played his last game for the Nets. The inability of the two sides to find acceptable terms on an extension — followed within days by Durant’s trade request — seemed to indicate that the New Jersey Nets fan and Seven All-Stars were headed for the door. Irving, his agent, and her stepmother, Shelia Riley Irving, then made a separate peace with the Nets that led to him and his eventual return.
This season, after being embroiled in anti-Semitic controversy and being suspended for eight matches, a new round of betting has him again out of the remaining stage, via a deal if it can be arranged. How can the network keep up with the string of controversies — MIA one season, joining anti-vaxxers the next and then anti-Semitism? It got personal with fans and NBA players accusing Joe Tsai of worse human rights abuses than Irving. At the same time, the Nets were losing and playing poorly as well. enough already.
Then this happened…
Well, actually no Just This… a great set of this is. The Nets, led by Ky and KD, are on point and the owner-to-ballboy sentiment looks great. Jack Vaughn has gone from a “written” candidate for the head coaching position to a true candidate for Coach of the Year.
So what is the bet now? Are you going to keep the net on Irving, and offer him an extension, for how long and when? Tsai could sign him to an extension of up to $198 million over four at any time in the season or in free agency.
Mark W. Sanchez of The Post wrote on Wednesday that as things go, there is no leverage in betting against Irving and the Nets to continue their “partnership,” a word the Nets like to use to describe their relationship with their stars.
He also wrote, “The present is promising, which means the future may have a delayed expiration date.”
Sanchez relies heavily on the analysis of Bobby Marks, former Nets GM and now an ESPN “front office insider”. Marks (no relation) thinks the Nets and Irving can come to an agreement on an extension but he doesn’t think it will come in a traditional package.
“I don’t think it’s crazy,” Bobby Marks told Sanchez on Tuesday. “I suspect [Irving returning to the Nets is] More likely than not… “We know what happened early in the year, but he at least for the time being guarantees a new contract with Brooklyn.”
“I still think it’s hard for the team to stick to it more than two seasons,” added Bobby Marks. “I think the days of the four-year, $200 million player — unless it’s Brooklyn, which I don’t think is — are long gone for him.”
Will it lead to more drawn-out, rambunctious conversations… Durant’s friendship with Irving and the prospect of another commercial order hover over it all?
There doesn’t seem to be any appeal to a deal before free agency, assuming both sides want it. Irving earns $36.9 million this season, which Bobby Marks called “a show-and-tell contract.” So in the meantime, there will be plenty of speculation, especially if the Nets, Irving, and Durant continue down that path to glory.
The Nets at least at this point seem to have the most cards but if Irving continues to perform at this level…without argument the advantage could shift from organization to player. Other teams might consider taking a chance on giving Irving a big deal. There was speculation on Zack Lowe’s podcast the other day about the possibility of Houston putting on a show in the off-season.
There is no doubt that Irving, at 30, is a good bet physically in the short or long term. Few, if any, NBA players take care of their body like Irving does.
“I’ve been working on my body for the past year and a half, two years in particular recovering from the painful ankle injury I sustained during the 2021 playoffs,” Irving said after the Spurs game. “I felt like I didn’t really get my feet under me at the end of last season, so this season I’m definitely focusing on being a bit more solid on my toes.”
Bottom line: Betting against a continuation of the Irving-Nets partnership has proven risky in 2020, 2021 and 2022. So beware of doing the same in 2023.
“I went to national television when [Irving shared the anti-Semitic film] And he said: “When do we get enough? When did I cut ties with him? Bobby Marx said to Sanchez. “And things have changed significantly for everyone.”