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Kyrie Irving opting in with Nets

Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - FEBRUARY 26: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets rteacts to a call during the second half of a game against the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum on February 26, 2022 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)

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Kyrie Irving didn’t get the long-term max offer he wanted from the Nets. He didn’t get desired outside interest, either, the Lakers – with no cap space and no trade packages that appealed to Brooklyn – his only other suitor.

So, Irving is exercising his $36,934,550 player option with Brooklyn.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

The framing from Charania and Irving’s wording – “See you in the fall” – suggest this isn’t part of an opt-in-and-trade.

Irving will be on an expiring contract. The Nets can trade him if they want. It’s up to them. Irving loses all tangible leverage with this move.

Intangibly… Brooklyn’s crisis continues. The relationship between Irving and the franchise is strained. Difficult in better times, Irving could be a nightmare as he moves toward 2023 unrestricted free agency. After James Harden forced a trade, this could be the latest domino that leads to Irving and Kevin Durant exiting, too. Durant is reportedly frustrated with the Nets over their handling of Irving.

Or maybe having no long-term contract security and his stock bottoming out as much as it can for a player so young and talented will bring out the best in Irving. Who knows with him? Irving, 30, could always show more commitment to his team – and reap the rewards if he does. Brooklyn has championship upside with Durant and Irving (and I guess Ben Simmons).

That’s really what makes this situation so volatile. The Nets aren’t a run-of-the-mill team dealing with an unhappy star. They’re a potential championship contender with a locked-in superstar dealing with an unhappy star who’s friends with the superstar. Irving opting in means this drama will hover over Brooklyn next season. Look how destructive that type of tension was with the Celtics Irving’s last season in Boston.

There’s one potential out: Irving could still sign an extension with Brooklyn. The Nets were seemingly offering something over multiple years. Maybe not quite as much as Irving wanted, but he might come to terms with his depressed market and take security. That said, after all the fireworks to reach this point, it seems Irving and Brooklyn are on different pages about how much he’s worth long-term. It’s tough to see what will change over the summer.

So, Irving and the Nets head toward next season together but practically no questions answered beyond. Irving didn’t blow up the situation just yet, but it remains nearly as combustible.