After Kyrie Irving's shortened season due to his COVID-19 vaccine hold out, Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks was non-committal about the star's future with the organization.
Marks, speaking on Wednesday following their first-round exit in the postseason, said he wants players who will “be available.”
“I think we know what we’re looking for,” Marks said when asked if the Nets were “committed” to Irving. “We’re looking for guys that want to come in here, be part of something bigger than themselves, play selfless, play team basketball, and be available. That goes not only for Kyrie but for everybody here.”
Are the Nets committed to Kyrie Irving long-term?
"He has some decisions to make on his own. We're looking for guys that want to be something bigger than themselves, play team basketball, and be available. That goes for Kyrie and everybody here." pic.twitter.com/yRoLbayv8Z
— Nets Videos (@SNYNets) May 11, 2022
Irving played in just 29 games for the Nets last season while holding out on receiving the coronavirus vaccine — something he never ended up getting. New York City eventually rolled back its vaccine mandate, which allowed him to play for the team full-time in late March.
The Nets had initially said that they didn’t want to play Irving just “part-time,” but eventually backed down from that stance.
While he didn’t play much, he looked good when he did. Irving averaged 27.4 points, which matched a career-high, and 5.8 assists per game in the regular season while shooting nearly 48% from the field. His return, though, seemed a bit too late for the Nets, who were widely considered a favorite to win the championship coming into the season.
The Nets had to make it out of the play-in to take the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference and then were swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round.
Kyrie ‘has some decisions to make’
Irving can become a free agent this summer if he turns down his $36.5 million player option for next season. He’s also eligible to sign a $246 million extension this summer if he opts out of that deal too.
“In terms of my extension, man, I don’t really plan on going anywhere,” Irving said after they were knocked out of the playoffs, via NJ.com. “So this is just added motivation for our franchise to be at the top of the league for the next few years.
“When I say I’m here with [Kevin Durant], I think that really entails us managing this franchise together alongside [owner Joe Tsai] and Sean Marks.”
While that sounds promising for Nets fans, Irving has changed his mind before. He told the Celtics he planned to stay with them long-term before bolting for Brooklyn in the first place.
His comments are also very different from the ones Marks made on Wednesday.
And before Marks can make any decisions, Irving has to make the first move.
“Quite frankly he has some decisions to make on his own,” Marks said.
Either way it ends up, both with Irving and Ben Simmons, Marks knows he has to make sure his players actually want to be part of the team before landing any long-term deals.
"Do they want to be part of this? Are they motivated by something that's not good for the whole team here? Those are questions we have to ask ourselves and the players that we want to bring back."
- Sean Marks on team-building with Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons pic.twitter.com/aIaEUAwQyA
— Nets Videos (@SNYNets) May 11, 2022
“Certainly, when you’re looking at players who are making $30-40 million, you have to factor in everything,” Marks said. “That’s the hard part of the business, right? We can all see what they can do on the court … What makes them tick? What drives them? Do they want to be part of this? Are they motivated by something that’s not good for the whole team here?
“Those are questions we’re going to have to ask ourselves and ask the players that we want to bring back in here.”