Irving didn’t come to terms on a long-term deal with the Nets, and he instead opted into the final year of his contract. According to Fox Sports’ Ric Bucher on his podcast, Irving wanted his new contract to guarantee he wouldn’t have to play more than 60 games in a season.
“[Nets governor] Joe Tsai has already shown he’s willing to play hardball with Kyrie by taking a max extension off the table almost immediately,” Bucher said. “Now, part of that may be Kyrie’s doing. I’m told he wanted his new contract to guarantee he wouldn’t have to play more than 60 games in a season and would not have to play any back-to-backs, which he apparently referred to as inhumane.”
Irving sat out a large chunk of the 2021-22 NBA season, as he was ineligible to play in home games for the Nets due to his decision to remain unvaccinated against COVID-19. When New York City’s law around vaccinations changed, Irving was then able to return to playing in home games late in the season.
Still, he appeared in just 29 games during the 2021-22 regular season. Irving averaged 27.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game while shooting 46.9 percent from the field and 41.8 percent from beyond the arc.
It appears the Nets weren’t willing to commit to Irving for the long term, and the former No. 1 overall pick’s demands may have been a reason why. As talented as he is, Irving has not been durable since joining the Nets. He has appeared in just 103 games over the last three seasons, failing to play at least 30 games in a season twice.
With Kevin Durant requesting a trade and Irving in the final season of his contract, the Nets may need to move both players in order to quickly rebuild their roster and contend for a playoff spot in the 2022-23 season and beyond.