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Future of Kyrie Irving with the Brooklyn Nets now up in the air

The status of Kyrie Irving was a major storyline for the Brooklyn Nets throughout the 2021-22 season.

Irving opted against getting a COVID-19 vaccine at the start of the season, forcing him to remain away from the team through the first 35 games.

Brooklyn had the option of letting Irving play road games with local New York City vaccine mandates preventing him from suiting up at the Barclays Center. The team opted against that until a breakout of COVID-19 hit it in early January.

Once New York City lifted its vaccine mandate, Irving became a full-time player. In no way does this etch in stone his future with the Nets. General manager Sean Marks made that clear in his season-ending press conference on Wednesday. The front office head did not hold back.

“He has some decisions to make on his own. We’re looking for guys that want to be a part of something bigger than themselves, play team basketball, and be available. That goes not only for Kyrie but everybody here.”

Sean Marks on whether the Nets are committed to Kyrie Irving, via SNY

It’s rather clear that Marks is questioning whether Irving wants to be a member of the Nets long-term. He’s also questioning whether Brooklyn views him as a fit with Kevin Durant moving forward.

“Do they want to be part of this? Are they motivated by something that’s not good for the whole team here? Those are questions we have to ask ourselves and the players that we want to bring back.”

Marks’ comments on both Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons

Related: Kyrie Irving and the NBA’s highest-paid players

Kyrie Irving’s future with the Brooklyn Nets now firmly up in the air

brooklyn nets, kyrie irving
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

We know about the entire Simmons equation. He was acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers as part of a package for James Harden ahead of the February 10 NBA trade deadline. Simmons never suited up in a game for the 76ers before they were swept out of the NBA Playoffs in the first round by Irving’s former Boston Celtics team. Simmons is set to undergo back surgery with no timetable for a return.

As for Irving, things are much more complicated. The 30-year-old guard has a $36.5 million option for the 2022-23 season. He’s almost certainly going to decline said option in hopes of landing a max contract. As for what the NBA champion thinks, he did tell the media following Brooklyn’s ugly first-round loss to Boston that he wants to return to the Nets.

“In terms of my extension, I don’t really plan on going anywhere,” Irving said recently. “Like I said, this is added motivation for our franchise to be at the top of the league for the next few years. Just looking forward to the summer and just building with our guys here.”

  • Kyrie Irving stats (2021-22): 27.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 5.8 APG, 1.4 SPG, 47% shooting, 42% 3-point

As you can see, Irving is still a major difference-make from an on-court perspective. If he can play close to a full season with Kevin Durant, these Nets will be seen as legit NBA title contenders. For Irving, that seems to be the goal.

“When I say that I’m here with Kev (Durant), I think that it entails us managing this franchise together,” he said. “Alongside Joe, and Sean, and just our group of family members we have in our locker room and in our organization.”

Related: Kyrie Irving and the top 2022 NBA free agents

However, this decision might not ultimately be up to Irving. Even if he opts out of his contract, there’s no guarantee that the Nets are going to offer the seven-time All-Star a five-year deal that would take him into his age-35 season.

Outside of Irving’s off-court antics and volatile personality, there’s a question about an on-court fit with Durant. The guard averaged 15.3 points on 37% shooting in the final three games of the Celtics’ series. Even with him and Durant in the mix, the Nets were not a match for a much better Boston team.

Iving also took to a Twitch stream Tuesday evening while playing “Grand Theft Auto” to blast his critics for alleged racism.

“I hear it so often, and that has racist undertones to it. He has to be on drugs. This woke black guy has to be on drugs,” Irving said. “Shut the (expletive) up. I haven’t smoked not one thing. I haven’t taken not one drug. That’s the prototypical response that you hear from someone that’s living a life in a shell, that don’t know (expletive) what’s going on.”

Regadless of our opinions regarding this topic matter, one thing is clear. Kyrie Irving has been a distraction for the Nets. He’s admitted such. Whether that’s enough for the Nets to decide to move on remains to be seen.

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