kyrie irving kevin durant nets
Troy Wayrynen | USA TODAY Sports

Kyrie Irving’s decision to commit to the Nets – well, to commit to $37 million in guaranteed money at least – does not appear to have done much to quell the drama.

Shocking, we know.

Irving’s camp clearly has the ear of NBA insider Shams Charania. And he had a lengthy report about Irving and the Nets on Tuesday for The Athletic. It was a bit convoluted, becayse what isn’t with Irving? And none of it sounds terribly promising for the Nets, who Charania reports are plagued with unspecified “underlying issues.”

From the report:

The focus now turns to the Nets, players desiring to stay committed to the task at hand and whether (owner Joseph) Tsai and (general manager Sean) Marks are able to repair the issues that led to several teams across the league preparing for the prospect of both (Kevin) Durant and Irving being traded this week. There are real matters of contention that need to be addressed among Nets ownership, management and players, multiple sources said, and the Nets could still decide to move Irving this offseason or next season. Will Tsai and Marks elect to rebuild and start from scratch — or can all sides restore relationships and have the roster retooled around Durant, Irving and Simmons and role players such as (Joe) Harris, (Seth) Curry and Nic Claxton?


Several teams are expected to continue to pursue Irving via trade, but his opt-in makes clubs consider more closely whether to trade assets in a deal for a player who will enter unrestricted free agency in 2023. Teams across the league understand Irving’s talent, and now a full season in 2022-23 allows him the opportunity to prove himself once again, then return to the market and earn a maximum contract next summer. Multiple sources with knowledge of his decision said Irving wants to prioritize winning a championship next season and show why he’s one of the best players in the league.

There is a lot going on there. Let’s unpack it.

It’s pretty clear the Nets aren’t throwing a parade that Irving opted in. Charania reports he had “three potential opt-in-and-trade options available to pursue.” But all logic indicates his only realistic choices were a Nets opt-in or opting out to take the $6 million mid-level exception from the Lakers. So he took the money. Which is what any player — especially one with Irving’s significant injury history — would do.

The palace intrigue with the Nets … Durant and Irving are under contract. Maybe Marks throws head coach Steve Nash under the bus at some point to appease them. But they don’t have the salary cap flexibility to go make major upgrades to the roster. The Nets are what they are. They have to pray Ben Simmons actually plays and is effective when he does.

But let’s say Irving decides he wants to force his way out of town. Let’s go back to his reported wish list prior to opting in: the Clippers, Heat, Knicks, Lakers, Mavericks and 76ers. If Irving is prioritizing a championship, how many present better options? Maybe the Lakers and Sixers, if that.

James Kratch can be reached at

James Kratch is the managing editor of ESNY. He previously worked as a Rutgers and Giants (and Mike Francesa) beat reporter for NJ Advance Media.