MIAMI (AP) — Kyrie Irving is finally going to play a home game for Brooklyn again on Sunday. And he apparently intends to play home games with the Nets for years to come.
Irving, speaking to reporters Saturday following Brooklyn’s game-day shootaround practice in Miami, said he feels comfortable being a member of the Nets and that he wants to remain teammates with Kevin Durant.
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 coming summer — assuming the Nets offer such a deal.
“I love it here,” Irving said. “Once summertime hits, I know that we’ll have some conversations but there’s no way I can leave my man 7 anywhere.”
That was a reference to Durant, who wears jersey No. 7 for Brooklyn.
Irving's revelation wasn't exactly a revelation to the Nets, coach Steve Nash said. Brooklyn has been working under the assumption that Irving will be back next season and beyond.
“I think we we all feel confident that we’ll have Kyrie back," Nash said. “But that’s a front office discussion."
Irving’s comments came one day before he’s scheduled to play his first home game for the Nets this season, now that New York City mayor Eric Adams exempted athletes and performers from the city’s coronavirus vaccine mandate. After Saturday’s game at Miami, Irving and the Nets return home to host Charlotte on Sunday.
Irving has said he is unvaccinated, which has meant that he’s been eligible to only play road games for the Nets since re-joining the team in January. Adams' decision has been criticized by some, since the city's mandate still applies to many workers such as police officers and teachers.
“If the mandate isn’t necessary for famous people, then it’s not necessary for the cops who are protecting our city in the middle of a crime crisis," Patrick Lynch, the president of the Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York, said this week.
Irving indicated that he understands why many may believe Adams' decision creates a double standard.
“I think there are a lot of people dealing with real consequences from being unvaccinated," Irving said Saturday. “I don’t think it’s talked about enough in terms of our essential workers and people on the front lines."
Offering Irving an extension would mean that the Nets may have roughly $560 million promised to three players.
Durant’s four-year, $194 million extension with the Nets starts next season, keeping him under contract to Brooklyn through the 2025-26 season. Ben Simmons, who has yet to make his Nets debut after being acquired from Philadelphia earlier this season, is under contract through 2024-25 and is owed about $113 million through the remainder of his deal.
“I'm looking at the long run," Irving said.
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