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With limited options, mercurial Nets star Irving "blinks," chooses another season in Brooklyn

Well, the melodrama around the Brooklyn Nets' mercurial star Kyrie Irving has subsided, for now, as Irving--recognizing his limited options for a trade, a new contract, or a departure--opted into a one-year extension, gaining $36.5 million to "run it back" with fellow star Kevin Durant (who signed for four years).

That means, on paper, that the Nets have three stars, assuming former Philadelphia 76er Ben Simmons returns to form after well over a year off in injury rehab, and the team--at least if it can upgrade a few roster spots--might compete with the Eastern Conference elite, like the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, and Milwaukee Bucks.

It also means that, should Irving have a year without major injuries and volitional absences, and delivers his dazzle, he could earn a giant contract from the Nets, and/or a welcomed landing spot elsewhere as a free agent. (Had he opted out, he could only have earned $6 million at a new team.)

One sticking point, according to second-hand reports, was the Nets' insistence that a new contract, shorter than Irving's goal, include pay based on performing in a requisite number of games--a newfound hard-line from team management (and ownership) that has, in recent years, bent to its stars.

Last season, after Irving refused a coronavirus vaccination, rendering him ineligible to play in New York City (and Toronto), the Nets banned him from road games, insisting on team continuity and cohesion--then reversed the edict after star Durant (and then star James Harden, before he wangled his way to Philadelphia) played too many minutes.

The 6/27/22 NetsDaily round-up noted that Shams Charania of The Athletic--who with ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski is one of the two designated leakers for NBA players and managers to jockey for advantage--broke the news.

"The decision essentially kicks the can down the road for the player and team," as NetsDaily noted, citing an unnamed team insider as observing, “Kyrie blinked.”

It also means that the Nets have to work on rebuilding their roster, so keep watch for new guys wearing the uniform--after all, you're only cheering for the clothes.

Some of the coverage

Nets’ Kyrie Irving opts into player option to end contract saga, wrote Brian Lewis of the New York Post:
It should be noted that Irving willingly sacrificed almost $17 million by his refusal to get vaccinated, and lost millions more after he ripped his signature shoe designed by Nike and had his sneaker contract ended. He has proven that money isn’t the end-all, be-all force driving his decisions. But whether a $30 million pay cut to join the Lakers was too much to take or he simply wanted one healthy shot at a title with the Nets, the end result is Irving will be back in Brooklyn.

The Post's Lewis noted Irving's cryptic comment:

“This is a great moment in my spiritual path, being present enough to understand that it’s not me doing all this. At this point I’m being pushed in certain directions,” Irving said, adding, “You can’t be afraid to make mistakes, in private or out in the open. The mistakes that you do make, you’ve got to learn from them.”

At the very least, as Lewis put it, Irving's "going to have to earn that max contract he wants — whether it’s in Brooklyn or elsewhere."

From Chicken To Kick-The Can: Nets Risky Games With Stars Not Over, wrote independent journalist 
Steve Lichtenstein, warning:
That the bet paid off for the Nets in the near term isn’t the only outcome from this sordid affair that matters, unfortunately. This entire episode bodes ill for how this franchise intends to operate going forward. There was a report from ESPN’s Brian Windhorst earlier on Monday that Tsai and Marks were willing to sacrifice Durant’s future with the team if that’s what it took to stand their ground against Irving’s asking price and term, under the logical assumption that KD would demand a trade if he felt the Nets weren’t committed to winning. 

If that and similar reports are true--who can be sure--Lichtenstein accused the Nets of hubris, given that superstar Durant is completely committed to his game: "You build teams around Durant’s greatness." (And, at 34, he may have only a few more years left.)