Kyrie Irving's trade request is logical move to secure his basketball future. Now Nets need to protect theirs
It’s time to pull out the Kyrie Irving bingo boards and see where “trade request” lands.
It could be right next to “start social media fire,” which is opposite from “miss half the season for unknown reason” or under “offend a marginalized group” or perhaps diagonal from “lose lucrative Nike shoe deal.”
Never forget, “staycation” is on the board twice, because seemingly, it can’t just happen once.
No matter the matter, it feels inevitable and more in line with NBA star protocols. The Brooklyn Nets did not seem willing to extend Irving at max contract prices after six weeks of good behavior following his latest folly.
Irving certainly doesn’t want to go into the treacherous world of free agency without the certainty of having something in his back pocket — a fair notion on its face if you don’t consider the catastrophes he’s played a central role in.
So it certainly seems logical both sides are here, with six days before the trade deadline and the All-Star break looming shortly thereafter. Since his return from the Nets’ team-imposed exile, Irving has performed and attended Nets games in uniform, missing only three contests.
His production has been on par with expectations and one could make the argument he’s been stabilizing. Well, one could say Irving not being destructive is a victory in itself.
Let’s be clear: Of all the inane things Irving has done since becoming a Net, this doesn’t register on the Richter scale. He’s trying to secure his basketball future, with most sources believing he’s aiming for a reunion with LeBron James in Los Angeles.
Perhaps this has all been part of the grand master plan in a way. Return to play, provide enough of a reminder why his talent can be mesmerizing and stay off the radar for negative things.
It was a low bar, but he crossed it — for a period. He even earned back the trust of Kevin Durant — for a period. Durant was adamant he trusted Irving to be reliable a little over a month ago in a conversation with Yahoo Sports, saying he still believed he and Irving could build something sustainable and long-lasting in New York but away from Madison Square Garden.
But this is Irving, who’s wildly unpredictable, and that’s the most consistent part about him.
The Nets had to enter into this relationship knowing this would be the likely outcome, but hoped Durant would be able to keep Irving in line.
Now, they must face the obvious crossroads for the third time in the last six months, barely surviving the first two instances. First, when Durant issued his trade demand over the summer and the Nets held firm.
Then, when Irving decided to offend the Jewish population with his promotion of antisemitic content (shortly before Steve Nash was fired), the Nets again stayed along for the ride.
It’s as if Irving has grabbed the lighter and kerosene and told his buddy, “This is how you start a fire!” like a prequel to “Bad Boys 4.”
Would the Dallas Mavericks take Irving? “Yes,” high-ranking officials with knowledge of the Mavericks’ plans said in texts to Yahoo Sports multiple times Friday afternoon.
They also want Bojan Bogdanovic from Detroit and Bogdan Bogdanovic from Atlanta — they’re desperate and determined to get help for Luka Doncic before he passes out from exhaustion in carrying that franchise.
Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd was thought to be a handful during his playing days, so he would scoff at Irving’s follies, taking the headache because the production comes along with it.
Of course, the Lakers would take Irving, with many believing it’s his preferred destination. Getting traded there would eliminate the risk that comes with free agency over the summer, and sliding into the orbit of James’ massive world would be child’s play in James’ eyes — he wants to compete in the worst way for championships while still performing at a high level, but the Lakers don’t seem eager to part with future draft picks that will help them in the time James is long gone.
Or playing at 45 years old, like Tom Brady.
Who’s ready to give Irving four or five years at almost $200 million of financial freedom and practical freedom, no reason to abide by rules or team norms?
Nets general manager Sean Marks hasn’t responded to demands, only acting when James Harden gerrymandered his way to Philadelphia before last year’s trade deadline. But the player they received in return, Ben Simmons, looks like a shell of himself and no closer to being an impact player to help the Nets achieve their ambitious vision of becoming the next big dynasty.
This salvo seems like the final blow to Marks’ plans — which could be Irving’s only leverage. Simmons was the unknown over the summer the Nets didn’t have the answer to when rebuffing Durant’s request, one last roll of the dice.
But Simmons has proven to be snake eyes and now Marks could consider all options, including the nuclear one, which is trading Durant. Perhaps there was uncertainty of Durant’s future coming out of last season, but has anyone seen Durant before he got hurt?
He looked every bit in the “best in the world” conversation, which means a return for Irving — or even by proxy or in concert, Simmons — has to bring something back that keeps the Nets in striking distance with Milwaukee and Boston.
Or if not, Durant could bring back the return of draft picks and flexibility that will restart another rebuild after admitting defeat in this experiment.
Durant was ready to leave Irving to his own devices this summer, and now Irving is ready to strike out on his own and will find out what the basketball world truly thinks of his six weeks of good behavior.
Marks did the unthinkable last summer and looked to survive the worst of it, keeping the Nets at least in the conversation for elite in the East.
But if a pu pu platter is the only return you can get for Irving (and who would offer anything of true substance?), he can revisit that playbook and ride it out for the rest of the season, or do the tough thing — which could be the right thing for the long-term future of the franchise.
The Western Conference is wide open, despite Denver being at the top with a two-time MVP playing at that level. Someone could see a path to June and give Marks a call with an offer that’ll be hard to refuse.
But what if that call is for Durant and Marks says, “I’m listening”?
Didn’t see that one on the bingo board, did you?