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Kyrie Irving says “There’s no way I’m leaving” Durant this offseason

After New York lifted its vaccine mandate for performers and athletes like Kyrie Irving, Michael Holley and Michael Smith outline realistic expectations for the Brooklyn Nets.

Kevin Durant is locked in as a Brooklyn Net, signing a four-year, $198 million max contract extension before this season tipped-off.

The Nets had a four-year, $181.6 million extension on the table for Kyrie Irving but pulled it when his refusal to get vaccinated meant he would only be a part-time player at best for the team most of this season (not that he was likely to sign it anyway).

Irving can be a free agent this summer but told reporters Saturday — one day before his home debut for this season — that he has no intention of leaving Durant and Brooklyn this offseason. Via Andrew Lopez of ESPN.

“To be honest, I signed up for this for the long run,” Irving said...

“For me, it has always been about being comfortable and loving where I’m at. I love it here,” Irving said. “Once that summer time hits, I know we’ll have some conversations but there’s no way I could leave my man 7 anywhere.”

Despite concerns Irving can be unreliable and challenging, the Nets are not going to find a better player on the free agent market. Put simply, the Nets would be worse without him. Assuming Durant wants Irving back — and there is every reason to believe he does — the Nets can put that same extension offer back on the table through June 30, or offer a new contract as of July 1 for five years, $246 million.

For his part, there are a couple of reasons Irving will take that deal and stay in Brooklyn.

The first is the chance to win another ring. With himself, Durant, a healthy Ben Simmons defending and playing a role next season, plus solid role players, the Nets will be title contenders. Irving enjoys the big stage and Brooklyn offers as big a one as there is in the league.

The second reason Irving was never going to leave: Money.

Irving has a player option for next season at $36.5 million that nobody ever thought he would pick up. He can bolt to another team this summer as a free agent — if he’s willing to accept fewer years and less money — but the teams that have or can easily create max cap space this season are not places he will want to play. Detroit, Indiana, Orlando and San Antonio are rebuilding. The most intriguing option might be to pair with Damian Lillard in Portland, but that team has a lot of work to do to round out a potential contending roster in what will be a deeper and stacked West next season. Irving could try to force a sign-and-trade to some place he wants to be, but that gets very complex and tricky.

He doesn’t want to anyway. Irving wants to be in Brooklyn, and that deal will get done this offseason.