The Brooklyn Nets had a disappointing season from every angle and held their end-of-year press conferences Wednesday, a few weeks after getting swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics. The team has a few big decisions to make this offseason, most notably on the possibility of an extension for Kyrie Irving. Irving has a player option for next season worth $36 million, but he could opt out and sign a five-year deal worth as much as $246 million.
This is if the Nets offer him the extension. In a vacuum it's a no-brainer decision. It's a ton of money but Irving is indeed that good. However, we don't live in a vacuum, and Irving just missed most of the season because he wouldn't take the COVID-19 vaccine. It was a big reason why the Nets bowed out so early in the playoffs, if not the reason.
So maybe it's not a big surprise that Nets general manager Sean Marks was non-committal about the potential max extension for the star guard when asked about it today. Marks noted Irving needs to make his own decision about his player option before any extension talks could begin before monologuing about wanting players that want to be part of a team and be available.
Pointed? Perhaps. Availability is a big problem for Irving, regardless of circumstance. Brooklyn is coming off a lost season that was severely hampered by Irving's refusal to get vaccinated that led to his absence for two-thirds of the year. The previous year, Irving took two weeks off in January after the insurrection at the Capitol. The year before that, Irving was hurt most of the season before it got cut short due to COVID.
Irving's injury history is both worrying and entirely out of his control. But everything else? Not so much. Irving chose, for months, to not do whatever he needed to in order to get on the court. He chose to bail on everybody in the middle of the 2020-21 season. Nobody should blame Marks for hesitating to give the guy who made those choices a quarter-billion dollars.
That's before you get into all the other weird stuff Irving has said in public during his Nets tenure. Like when he openly bemoaned the Nets' lack of chemistry, continuity, and lack of rest during the playoffs (how'd that happen?). Or how he said he was excited to "manage the franchise" alongside Marks and owner Joe Tsai after Brooklyn got swept. Or when he expressed his opinion that the Nets don't actually need a coach after Steve Nash got hired.
Irving's talent on the court is generational. But everything said above is only the scraping the surface. It's no wonder Marks and the rest of the management team will want to think long and hard before giving Irving as much money as possible.