NBA playoffs will show Nets if Kyrie Irving is worth the trouble

Is it worth the trouble?

That’s the question Kyrie Irving will answer this postseason, once and for all.

He’ll become a free agent after it’s over, after he opts out and before Brooklyn weighs the price of re-entering. Irving is eligible for a five-year, around $248 million deal, and if the Nets lose to Boston in Round 1 or match last year’s Round 2 exit, man, that would be a tough investment to make in a full-time artist who paints on a part-time schedule.

injuries. Sabbaticals. Unwanted vaccinations. Yeah, it’s always something, and it’s always going to be something. Irving once got tired of playing with LeBron James, an all-time great, just as he once got tired of playing for the Celtics, perhaps the most storied franchise of all, and just as it seemed inevitable, he would get tired of Playing with another all-time great, Kevin Durant, Irving promised a few weeks ago that “there’s no way I can leave my 7-man anywhere,” referring to Durant, the lucky No. 7.

Buyer beware: Irving has broken more promises than he has broken ankles.

But at the same time, he’s a captivating playmaker who has proven capable of draining a big shot in Game 7 to win a championship. When the ball is in Irving’s hands, it’s impossible to take your eyes off him. He has managed to dominate without great size or the kind of explosive athleticism displayed by a Ja Morant, or a Russell Westbrook in his prime. Irving has used his intelligence, vision, body control and directional deflection to become a future Hall of Famer and the kind of generational talent that inspired Celtics legend Bob Cousy to tell The Post in the spring past that “I was still shaking”. head” for the fact that Boston was unable to re-sign him in 2019.

Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving (11) against the Cavaliers on Tuesday.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post
Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving
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A year later, as part of my annual Boston-Brooklyn review with the grandfather of all creative point guards, the 93-year-old Cousy reiterated that Irving is among the best point guards he’s ever seen.

“Kyrie touches all the bases,” Cousy said. “He dictates and penetrates at will, and there probably isn’t a great man who can alter what he’s trying to do if he’s determined to do it. … Every part of Kyrie’s game is under control. He would put him up against anyone.”

When it is made available to play, that is. Cousy founded the NBA Players Association in 1954 because he believed owners couldn’t retaliate against him “because I put butts in the seats,” and that players deserved a say in the future of the league. But even as a union card-carrying freedom fighter who is ambivalent about those who refused to take the COVID-19 vaccine, Cousy couldn’t accept Irving’s decision to miss so many games “because you have some obligation when you sign up.” that contract … and it affected the performance of his team.”

Irving’s extended absence is the main reason the Nets are play-in survivors as the seventh seed in the East, forced to open this first-round series on Sunday on the road. So yeah, you owe them one. If Irving leads Brooklyn to a second straight postseason victory over the Celtics, then that score is settled.

And then it’s time to really answer that question about Irving’s value relative to the chaos he creates.

Kyrie Irving makes a layup during the Nets' victory over the Cavaliers in the Play-in tournament.
Kyrie Irving makes a layup during the Nets’ victory over the Cavaliers in the Play-in tournament.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

In Year 1 in Brooklyn, with Durant out for the season, Irving missed more than two dozen games with a shoulder injury before publicly trashing the Nets’ roster three games in a comeback that would be cut short by surgery that the season would end. In Year 2, Irving was absent several times for personal reasons and was injured in the middle of the Nets’ second-round loss to Milwaukee. In Year 3, he played in only 29 regular season games due to his anti-mandate stance.

This is not what Brooklyn signed up for three summers ago, not even close. If the Nets fail to win the title, should they rush to reinvest nearly $250 million in a 30-year-old point guard who has been the face of their instability? Or should they stick with Durant and Ben Simmons and whatever assets they can recover in an Irving sign-and-trade?

“If they’re contemplating not bringing back Kyrie and exploring signings and trades, they should also explore their options of trading Durant,” said former Nets executive Bobby Marks, an ESPN analyst. “Thats the reality. Kyrie drafted Durant, and these guys are joined at the hip. These are the cards that have been dealt to the Nets.”

Kevin Durant (7) and Kyrie Irving (11).
Kevin Durant (7) and Kyrie Irving (11) are good friends.
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Marks doesn’t think Irving would be willing to participate in a trade and he doesn’t think Durant would notarize another mega move after the comings and goings of James Harden and the acquisition of Simmons. Marks said that if he were managing the Nets, he would offer Irving a four-year deal worth roughly $190 million to line him up with Durant’s extension.

“I would sign it and then have a lot of sleepless nights,” the former Nets executive said.

Asked what he would do if Irving insisted on a fifth year, a non-Durant year, with a projected salary of more than $56 million in 2026-27, Marks repeated: “I’d sign him and then I’d have a lot of sleep.” nights.”

That is the riddle of Kyrie. You have a game for everyone, when he plays, and a lot of twists and turns in the dark.

So over the next two weeks or two months, Kyrie Irving will prove he can lead a championship-level team or show why it’s time to end his Nets career.

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