The Nets stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving spoke Monday about a rocky off-season that at times seemed like it might end with both of them playing for other teams.
Irving, whose contract negotiations and unwillingness to be vaccinated against the coronavirus dominated headlines for much of the past year, said he felt as though the Nets had given him an ultimatum.
“I gave up four years, 100 and something million deciding to be unvaccinated,” Irving said at the Nets media day. “And that was the decision: It was contract, get vaccinated or be unvaccinated, and there’s a level of uncertainty of your future — whether you’re going to be in this league, whether you’re going to be on this team, so I had to deal with that real-life circumstance of losing my job for this decision.”
Irving was eligible for max contract extensions worth up to about $245 million, but he and the Nets did not reach an agreement on one. Instead, Irving opted into the final year of his contract, which will pay him $36.5 million this season. He said he had other options — but not many — and decided that staying in Brooklyn was the best choice for him. Irving played in just 29 regular-season games in 2021-22, mostly because he was ineligible to play at home because of local vaccine mandates.
Soon after Irving opted in to the last year of his Nets contract in June, Durant requested a trade, which he said was because of uncertainty and accountability issues in the organization. He denied reports that he wanted to be traded because he was upset that the Nets did not agree to a long-term contract with Irving.
“I want to be in a place that’s stable and trying to build a championship culture,” Durant said. “So, I had some doubts about that.”
The Nets shopped Durant to other teams, but on Aug. 23, Durant and the Nets announced that they had “agreed to move forward with our partnership.”
Durant said he wasn’t disappointed or surprised to return to the Nets: “I know I’m that good that you just not going to give me away.”
This story will be updated.