The Brooklyn Nets are running the risk of alienating star forward Kevin Durant as they proceed with contract negotiations with guard Kyrie Irving, ESPN reported Wednesday.
Still left for Irving to decide is a contract option for 2022-23 at $36.9 million. He has a deadline of June 29 to make his decision, either returning for another season in Brooklyn or becoming a free agent.
As a free agent, Irving could have interest from the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat or even the New York Knicks, among other teams.
The Nets might even be interested signing Irving to a short-term deal if he opts out of the final year of the current contract.
According to the report, though, Irving’s negotiation leverage derives from the concept that Durant’s relationship with the front office could be strained if the Nets decide to take hardline negotiation tactics.
While the Lakers are considered favorites to land Irving if he elects free agency, they would only be able to offer a $6 million taxpayer exemption, well under the $36.9 million he would get from just staying put.
There is a growing belief that if Irving opts out, or contract negotiations become contentious, Durant could request a trade, further complicating things for the Nets’ front office.
Irving, 30, is a seven-time All-Star, who has averaged 23.1 points with 6.4 assists and 5.2 rebounds over 11 seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics and Nets.
Durant, 33, is a 12-time All-Star and 2014 MVP, who has averaged 27.2 points with 7.1 rebounds and 4.3 assists over 14 seasons with the Seattle SuperSonics/Oklahoma City Thunder, Golden State Warriors and Nets.