To say that Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets just concluded shop on a drama-filled 2021-22 season would be an understatement.
It started with Irving having to remain away from the team due to his stance against the COVID-19 vaccines and local New York City pandemic mandates.
The season continued with a rift between Kevin Durant and James Harden, leading to the latter being traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for a package including Ben Simmons. It concluded with Simmons himself remaining out of action as Brooklyn was swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
For his part, Irving was a central figure in that drama. Once it became clear that Irving wasn’t going to change his stance and New York City wasn’t going to remove of its mandate over the short-term, the Nets opted to keep Irving away from the team rather than play just road games. It cost him the first 35 games of the season.
The NBA champion recently spoke on his mentality while being away from the Nets. From a mere mental standpoint, things seemingly weren’t going great for him.
“There was nothing to lose, you know?. It was only the journey to enjoy at that point, because I was sitting at home and — I don’t even want to say sitting at home, I was wondering at home what my future was going to look like, you know? Whether I was going to be traded, whether I was going to be released, whether I was going to get the opportunity to be on another team, how I was going to spin this for myself in a positive way.”Kyrie Irving to The ETC’s podcast with Kevin Durant (H/T SB Nation)
At least when it came to the NBA rumor mill, there was some thought given to the idea that the Nets might look to trade Irving. A lack of interest in him on the trade market put those rumors to rest really quickly.
Irving did talk about what transpired during the 2021-22 season, admitting that his vaccination stance played a role in the drama we saw in Brooklyn.
“I think it was just really heavy emotionally this season. We all felt it. I felt like I was letting the team down at a point where I wasn’t able to play. We were trying to exercise every option for me to play, but I never wanted it to just be about me. And I think it became a distraction at times. And as you see we just had some drastic changes.”Kyrie Irving on COVID-19 vaccine stance and impact on the Nets
Kyrie Irving NBA free agency plans and hopes to remain with the Nets
Irving has a player option of $36.50 million for the 2022-23 season. Typically, a player in his situation and of his ilk would opt out of said contract to become a free agent. It would enable the electric 30-year-old guard to cash out on a max contract on the open market.
Whether this happens remains to be seen. What we do know is that Irving doesn’t have any interest in leaving the Nets this summer.
“In terms of my extension, I don’t really plan on going anywhere. 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.
When I say that I’m here with Kev (Durant), I think that it entails us managing this franchise together.”Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving on his future
On the court, the duo of Durant and Irving can be absolutely dominating. At issue here is the fact that they rarely saw the court together during the 2021-22 season. The two played 16 regular-season games with one another.
- Kyrie Irving stats (2021-22): 27.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 5.8 APG, 47% shooting, 42% 3-point
It’s now up to Irving and Durant to build that continuity. The backdrop here obviously being the Ben Simmons situation and perceived issues surrounding the enigmatic point guard within the Nets’ organization.
Stay tuned. Brooklyn’s drama didn’t simply die following its first-round sweep at the hands of Irving’s former Celtics team. That’s for sure.