Although Irving said he doesn’t “plan on going anywhere” after a first-round sweep against the Boston Celtics, Nets general manager Sean Marks was noncommittal about his long-term future with the organization.
“I think we know what we’re looking for,” Marks said during a press conference Wednesday. “We’re looking for guys who want to come in here, be part of something bigger than themselves, play selfless, play team basketball, and be available. That goes not only for Kyrie but for everybody here.”
Irving played just 29 regular-season games in the 2021-22 season after he was ruled ineligible to play due to New York City’s vaccination mandate. Irving never got the COVID-19 vaccine, but the Nets allowed him to return as a part-time player in December for road games. He joined the team full-time in March ahead of the playoffs after New York City rolled back its vaccine mandates.
“There’s been far too much debate, discussion… about distractions and about things that are outside of basketball,” Marks said. “We would like to focus on doing some of the things that got us here in the first place and to help build Brooklyn.”
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Irving averaged 27.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists this season while shooting nearly 48% from the field and 41.8% from three, but Marks said Irving’s revolving status “hurt” the team’s chemistry and success.
Despite making it out of the play-in tournament as the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Nets were swept by the Celtics in the first round, the only series sweep of the 2022 postseason so far.
“I think it’s obvious,” Marks said. “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. And then you have people coming in at certain times of the season. We made what we felt was the correct decision at that particular time to say, ‘Hey, we’re not going to have Kyrie around.’ “
Marks added, “As you saw the load that that was putting on not only Kevin (Durant) but our other players, and then you have the Joe Harris injury and so forth. Then it becomes almost unfair to players and you’re asking them to take on too much. Then again, the decision was tweaked, what was best for the team, at that particular time – but there was no script.”
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Irving holds a $36.5 million player option for next season. He could opt out and sign up to a five-year contract worth as much as $246 million this summer — if the Nets offer such a deal.
Despite uncertainty from the organization, Irving has stated said that he wants to remain with the team.
“I don’t really plan on going anywhere,” Irving said last month following the Celtics sweep of the Nets. “This is added motivation for our franchise to be at the top of the league for the next few years and I’m just looking forward to the summer and building with our guys here.”
Contributing: Associated Press
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Nets GM on Kyrie Irving’s future: We want players to be ‘available’