The Nets came into this season with championship aspirations, thanks mainly to their star-studded trio of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irvingand james harden.
But Durant missed 27 games due to injury, Harden was traded at the deadline, and Irving played just 29 regular season games due to his vaccination status and local mandates. As a result, the Nets stumbled into the playoffs and were quickly swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round.
Nets GM Sean Mark and head coach Steve Nash met with reporters on Wednesday for their end-of-season session, and Irving’s future with the club was the hot topic.
Irving has a $36.5 million player option for next season, and his future with the team seems very much up in the air after his first three seasons in Brooklyn.
Marks was asked if there have been any contract talks with Irving to this point, and in his reply he stated that the Nets want players who are willing to “be part of something bigger than themselves.”
“I think that’s something we’ve been discussing, and we will continue to debrief on and discuss throughout this offseason,” Marks said. “… We haven’t had any of those discussions yet, so it would be unfair for me to comment on how it looks for us and Kyrie, because to be quite frank he has some decisions to make on his own. So, he has to look at what he wants to do with his player option from him and so forth like that.
“I think we know what we’re looking for. We’re looking for guys who want to come in here and be part of something bigger than themselves, play selfless, play team basketball, and be available. And that goes not only for Kyrie, but for everybody here.”
“It’s a team sport and you need everybody out there on the court,” Marks added later. “We saw this year when you have – Kevin missed 27 games with injuries and Kyrie being out for half the season, that hurts. That hurts from a roster-building standpoint. That’s not what we planned for. Some are avoidable and other excuses are of individual nature and those are the ones that we have to try to avoid. We need people here who want to be here, they’re selfless, and they want to be part of something bigger than themselves. And there’s an objective and a goal at stake here, and in order to do that we’re going to need availability from everybody.”
Due to New York City COVID mandates, Irving was initially not allowed to play home games in Brooklyn this season. The Nets decided that Irving would not be around the team or practice in road games as well, but later allowed the guard to play on the road as the team dealt with a rash of injuries.
Eventually, the NYC mandate was lifted and Irving was allowed to play in Brooklyn, but Marks explained that his absence definitely hurt the team.
“I think it’s obvious. Whenever you have a key part of your team that’s not available and you’re trying to build chemistry, you’re trying to build camaraderie out on the court, that’s very difficult,” Marks said. “And then you have people coming in at certain times of the season.
“There was no script. We weren’t going off of something that’s been written before. It made it difficult for all of us. Again, I don’t want to make any excuses on that, because there were a variety of teams out there and teams that are still playing to this day, they may not have had quite the extent of the excuses that we can come up with , but again they had to navigate COVID as well, they had to navigate injuries, they had to navigate all of this, and if I’m going to be brutally honest, they navigated it better than we did.”