With the NBA Draft three days away and free agency around the corner, trade conversations, signings and pursuits for all 30 teams have begun in earnest. Across the league, major free agents — and potential free agents — are being monitored: Chicago’s Zach LaVine, Washington’s Bradley Beal, Philadelphia’s James Harden, Phoenix’s Deandre Ayton, Charlotte’s Miles Bridges, Dallas’ Jalen Brunson, Portland’s Anfernee Simons and more.
But one of the most anticipated free-agency situations involves Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving, who has a June 29 deadline on his $36.9 million player option for the 2022-23 season. However, multiple sources tell The Athletic that conversations about Irving’s future have gone stagnant between him and the Nets. An impasse currently exists among the parties that clears the way for the seven-time All-Star to consider the open marketplace, those sources said.
Irving joined the Nets along with Kevin Durant in the summer of 2019, though Durant missed their first season together as he recovered from a torn Achilles tendon. Irving made the All-Star team in 2020-21 and helped lead the franchise to the Eastern Conference semifinals alongside Durant and James Harden before suffering an ankle injury in Game 4 against the Bucks. After the past season, in which he played just 29 games and missed most of the season’s home games because of his decision not to comply with New York City’s vaccine mandate, Irving made clear that he intended to return to the Nets in the summer and continue to build with Durant and newcomer Ben Simmons. He has averaged 27.2 points, 6.1 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game and made 40.4 percent of his 3-point attempts in three seasons with Brooklyn, but he has appeared in 103 of 216 regular-season games.
“I don’t really plan on going anywhere,” Irving said on April 25 after the Nets’ season-ending sweep to the Celtics in the first round of the East playoffs.
Nearly two months later, it appears both sides have serious work to do in order to find a resolution that brings Irving back to Brooklyn and his co-star in Durant, who is under contract with the Nets through 2025-26. Several teams across the league have kept tabs on the situation, wondering about the future of Irving and Brooklyn.
For the Lakers, the likely path to acquire Irving — and reunite him with LeBron James — would be Irving opting in to facilitate a trade, because the Lakers cannot realistically clear cap space to sign him themselves, and a sign-and-trade would trigger the hard cap, thus making acquiring Irving significantly more difficult. If Irving would opt in, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka would have to satisfy the collective bargaining agreement’s salary-matching rules, meaning if Irving’s $36.6 million was the only incoming salary, the Lakers could send anywhere from $29.3 million to $45.8 million to the Nets and/or a third team in a legal transaction.
For the Knicks, the likely path to acquire Irving depends on what the Nets prioritize. New York is even…