After a season in which he was out of the lineup, then in and out, before he finally was permanently in, Kyrie Irving is abruptly out, as the Nets have been swept out of the playoffs.
For this offseason and for next season, though, Irving said he is all-in – even as a general manager, apparently.
The Nets superstar can opt out of his contract this offseason, but even if he does, he reiterated that he does “not plan on going anywhere.” If he rips up his current pact, he made it sound as if the next, longer-term contract would be signed with Brooklyn.
If he declines the final, $ 36.5 million season on his contract, he would be eligible for a five-year, $ 246 million deal. Perhaps he can award it to himself.
“It’s a co-management relationship,” Irving said of the dynamic between himself, Kevin Durant and the Nets’ front office.
In the moments after the Nets’ 116-112 loss in Game 4 to the Celtics on Monday night, he was more looking forward to the future of the organization than bemoaning the immediate past.
“This is added motivation for our franchise to be at the top of the league for the next few years,” Irving said from Barclays Center after a season that began with title hopes ended without a playoff victory. “Just looking forward to the summer, building with our guys here.”
Presumably, next season will not be affected by Irving’s refusal to be vaccinated, which separated him from the team until December and did not allow him to play a home game until late last month.
By the time he had fully returned, the team had been forced to trade James Harden and was floundering, needing a late push just to qualify for the play-in tournament. They did not have enough time to jell, as a fully jelled Celtics club demonstrated.
Irving, only recently a full-time player, suggested he might be a part-time GM this offseason.
“When I say I’m here with Kev, I think it really entails us managing this franchise together alongside Joe [Tsai, the owner] and Sean [Marks, the GM] and just our group of family members that we have in our locker room and our organization, ”Irving said after he scored 20 points on 6 of 13 shooting in the Nets’ loss. “I think we just got to make some moves this offseason and really talk about it and really be intentional about what we’re building and have some fun with it.”
Irving did not mention Steve Nash in that core group, though Durant again praised the head coach.
Irving took responsibility for playing in just 29 games in the regular season because of his vaccine stance, though did not say he regretted anything.
“I felt like I was letting the team down at a point where I was not able to play,” said Irving, who became a face of the protesters who stood against the city’s vaccine mandate. “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. ”
If the distractions are gone and Ben Simmons and Joe Harris can play, the 2022-23 Nets project to be a major threat in the Eastern Conference. But the same has been true each season Durant and Irving have been in Brooklyn, and the projections have not met reality.
“We do not have to look back,” the 30-year-old Irving said. “There’s no question about where I’m going and how this is going to happen. I’m here with 7 [Durant]but also I’m here to build a great team. ”