With the vaccine mandate out of the way, Nets superstar guard Kyrie Irving is looking toward the future.
If Irving declines his $36.5 million player option for next season, he could sign a five-year, $246 million contract extension this offseason. That would keep him under contract through the 2026-27 season, which would be one year longer than fellow superstar Kevin Durant.
“For me, it has always been about being comfortable and loving where I’m at. I love it here,” Irving said, according to ESPN. “Once that summertime hits, I know we’ll have some conversations but there’s no way I could leave my man 7 anywhere.”
Of course, Irving was referring to Durant. A player that the point guard sees as someone he can build something special in Brooklyn with.
“For me, our team sentiment is we want to build a legacy here and have something sustainable,” Irving said. “Not just put this together real quick and then see what happens. But we’re going to do our best.”
The Nets have seemed to turn a corner in recent weeks and that trend appeared to continue on Saturday night when Brooklyn dominated the first-place Miami Heat. Durant and Irving needed only a combined 34 points in the effort over Miami.
Despite only playing in 21 games this season, Irving has been putting up magnificent numbers, averaging a career-high 28.5 points per game and shooting 49% from the field.
Now that the vaccine mandate is lifted, the Nets will benefit from having Irving on the court for their final eight games of the season. All but two of those games will take place at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams lifted the COVID-19 mandates for athletes and performers on Thursday, allowing Irving to finally make his debut at the Barclays Center as the Nets host the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday evening.
“I’ve been pinching myself since Wednesday and Thursday because there was a time where I got my hopes really, really high and all the air just got let out,” Irving said. “I didn’t want to get too excited. Still tonight, I’m trying to stay focused on this game. But I know tomorrow will eventually come and I’m looking forward to playing back in Brooklyn.”
At 39-35, the Nets currently sit in eighth place in the Eastern Conference and are trying to avoid the play-in tournament. Brooklyn is two games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for seventh and three games back of the Toronto Raptors for sixth.