Kyrie Irving, as of now, won’t be playing for the Nets this season. That could change if Irving decides to get the COVID-19 vaccine or New York City lifts its vaccine mandate, but neither of those, at the moment, appear likely to happen.
As such, Irving will lose out on half of his season’s salary for the home games he is ineligible to play in, but getting paid for the road games he’ll miss due to the team’s decision not to accommodate him as a part time player. The Nets are looking to move forward, as James Harden said they have “a job to do” and total focus on winning a championship with the roster they have. However, this is a team that was built around the idea that they would have three superstars in Irving, Harden, and Kevin Durant, but suddenly have a significant hole to fill and, for the moment, no real recourse to do so.
Irving isn’t suspended, because they can’t legally do that within the CBA since he isn’t violating any league rules, which takes away any avenue to get that roster spot back. Instead, the Nets will have to go forward with 14 players and a pair of two-ways for this season, one that still carries title or bust expectations. But there is a question as to what this team looks like in the near future, as Kevin Durant inked a 4-year extension this offseason but neither Irving nor Harden have committed beyond this season — both have player options for 2022-23.
The expectation was that both would likewise get and sign max extensions at some point, but a wrench has been thrown in those plans by Irving, who, according to Shams Charania in an appearance on The Glue Guys Podcast, will no longer be receiving a $186 million extension offer from the Nets.
“He was willing to sacrifice, at the end of the day, $16 million in salary for this upcoming year, and $186 million as far as an extension that he will not be offered now,” Charania said of Irving.
Part of the issue for the Nets is that there’s not really an avenue for replacing Irving on the free agency market even if they don’t extend him, as simply adding Harden’s max to their 2022-23 books puts them over the cap. As such, the clock will be ticking on possible trade talks with the Nets involving Kyrie, which Charania goes onto note on the pod are going to have to be considered and, while his value is nowhere near what it was, there are teams that would be at least intrigued by the possibility of dealing for him — even if there are rumors he will retire if dealt.
All of this is to say, Irving refusing to get vaccinated has taken a team that seemed assured to be a title frontrunner for years and suddenly put their future beyond this season far more in question. Harden signing an extension isn’t an absolute lock, although it’d be surprising if he didn’t, and with Kyrie apparently not figuring into the long-term plans at the moment, the Nets have to begin looking at what Plan B looks like for building around Durant.