LAS VEGAS — Kyrie Irving showed up in Summer League. Just not for his team.
After his failed contract extension negotiations and trade request, Irving popped up in baseline seats Saturday night to consume two games. There was a practical reason for his visit as well. The VP of the NBPA had a union meeting in town.
But when the Nets played the Sixers on Sunday afternoon, Irving was absent while Ben Simmons, Royce O’Neale, Steve Nash and Sean Marks watched courtside. It was yet another sign of the discord between Irving and his team that, at this point, seems irreparable.
Irving turned down an interview request by saying, “You have to go through the proper channels.” The Nets, meanwhile, released a promotion for season tickets without Irving in the photo, instead featuring Durant, Joe Harris, Cam Thomas and Ben Simmons.
Although many interpreted it as a sign of the future, there was another reasonable explanation: the Nets rotate players for season ticket promotions and it’s possible Irving was left off coincidentally.
Irving is angling to the Lakers and a reunion with LeBron James, which could work with Russell Westbrook to match salaries. The issue is Westbrook, at 33 years old without awareness of his limitations, is undesirable other than being an expiring $47 million contract. In other words, the Lakers would need to attach draft picks and perhaps recruit a third team in the trade. Irving’s value has plummeted but he’s a smaller expiring contract ($37 million) with a higher upside.
The Nets, according to reports, are holding off on dealing Irving until there’s a resolution on Kevin Durant’s trade request. It’s the smartest timeline since Durant’s situation, whether he’s traded or not, will determine the team’s direction and necessities.
That could take a while.
Kevin Durant went dark after the season, as the Daily News’ Kristian Winfield reported, but a source said the future Hall of Famer and his agent Rich Kleiman have been in contact with the organization more recently.
As far as preparation and timing, the Nets have leverage. A source said the team was aware of Durant’s unhappiness but surprised by his trade request. The assumption is Irving’s contract drama played a major role in Durant’s discontent, but the Nets haven’t been told specific reasons, a source said. Another possibility for Durant’s disapproval: the team released assistant coach Adam Harrington, a favorite of Durant’s going back to their time together in OKC.
Durant is under contract for four more years, providing the Nets options to keep him on the roster if the offers aren’t suitable. The 33-year-old has been known to change his mind and always plays when healthy, casting doubt on the threat of Durant holding out if he’s not