New York (AFP) Kyrie Irving might have to show the Brooklyn Nets that he’s more than just a great basketball player if he wants a future with the team.
General Manager Sean Marks made it clear on Wednesday that Irving will have to prove his commitment to being there for his team that hasn’t been around this season.
After Irving missed nearly all of the Nets’ home games because he refused a coronavirus vaccination, Marks said talks about a potential contract extension this summer would need to assess his dedication to playing unless he was injured.
“I think these are going to be discussions,” Marx said. “It’s a team sport and you need everyone out there on the field.”
The Nets rarely had it during a disappointing season that saw them claim the NBA Championship in seventh place in the Eastern Conference and swept away by the Boston Celtics in the first round.
They started the season playing without Irving, and decided they didn’t want him to be a part-time player. They eventually brought him back in December to play only road games – a decision Marx wouldn’t guess – with Irving unable to play in New York due to a city mandate requiring vaccination to perform in public.
The exception to the mandate made him available for all games in late March, but by then the Nets were climbing out of a big hole and had to win a Play-In just to get to the post-season.
Irving is eligible for an extension this summer and said he sees himself staying in Brooklyn alongside Kevin Durant, who signed the extension last summer.
Marks said they haven’t had any contract discussions yet with Irving, but said the Nets know what they’re looking for.
“We’re looking for guys who want to come here and be part of something bigger than themselves, play selfless, play basketball for the team and be available,” Marks said. “And that applies not only to Kyrie but to everyone here.”
Irving has an option for about $37 million next season, but he may seek an extension that would pay him an additional $185 million over four years. And his play seems worth it, as Irving averaged 27.4 points last season, which would have been eighth in the league.
But he played only 29 games in the second consecutive season as he missed matches when he was unharmed. Irving took a leave of absence from the team during the 2021-22 season and missed nine games for personal reasons.
This time, Marks acknowledged that Irving’s absence places an additional burden on Durant. He said the Nets need to have deep discussions after this season, including about the intentions of their players. Irving never specified why he wasn’t vaccinated, saying it was a personal choice.
“What drives them? Do they want to be a part of this? Are they driven by something that might not be good for the whole team?” Marks said. “So these are questions we have to ask ourselves as well as the players we want to bring back here.”
Marks provided good news for Ben Simmons, who said he is already feeling better after having back surgery last week to relieve pain from a herniated disc. Simmons never played for the Nets after receiving the former first pick from Philadelphia in February.
With Durant, Irving and Simmons, the Nets will have three potential superstars who can quickly get them to where they thought they could be this season. But Marx did not commit to Irving being part of the future, while also noting that Irving had his own decisions to make.
He also said he did not speak to Durant about the All-Star striker’s feelings about his long-term partnership with Irving. The two are close friends who came to Brooklyn together in 2019.
Marks said he expects at some point to speak to Durant, owner Joe Tsai and coach Steve Nash about any potential free agent.
But at the end of the day, I mean a lot of the time, I’m making these decisions, Marks said, “I’m not going to go up to Kevin and say, ‘Do you want that person?’ Do you want this person? Do you want that guy? I don’t think it’s fair to put that on Kevin.
“Now, is he surprised by anything? Definitely not, because he’ll know ahead of time what we’re doing, what we’re planning to do, to be honest with the whole crew.”