Irving says he plans to stay with Brooklyn Nets

MIAMI (AP) — Kyrie Irving will finally 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 after Brooklyn’s game day practice in Miami, said he felt comfortable being a member of the Nets and wanted to remain a teammate with Kevin Durant.

Irving has a $36.5 million player option for next season. He could step down and sign a five-year deal worth up to $246 million this summer — assuming the Nets offer such a deal.

“I love it here,” Irving said. “Once summer rolls around, I know we’ll have conversations, but there’s no way I can leave my 7 man anywhere.”

It was a reference to Durant, who wears the No. 7 jersey for Brooklyn.

Irving’s comments came a day before he is scheduled to play his first home game for the Nets this season, now that New York Mayor Eric Adams has exempted athletes and artists from the mandate of city ​​coronavirus vaccination. After Saturday’s game in Miami, Irving and the Nets head home to host Charlotte on Sunday.

Irving said he was not vaccinated, which means he has only been able to play road games for the Nets since joining the team in January. Adams’ decision has been criticized by some because the city’s mandate still applies to many workers such as police officers and teachers.

“If the warrant isn’t needed for famous people, then it isn’t needed for the cops protecting our city in the midst of a criminal crisis,” said Patrick Lynch, president of the Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York. said this week.

Irving said he understands why many may believe Adams’ decision creates a double standard.

“I think there are a lot of people dealing with the real consequences of not being vaccinated,” Irving said Saturday. “I don’t think it’s talked about enough when it comes to our essential workers and people on the front lines.”

Offering Irving an extension would mean the Nets could have about $560 million pledged to three players.

Durant’s four-year, $194 million extension with the Nets begins next season, keeping him under contract with 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 owes an estimated $113 million for the remainder of his contract.

“I’m looking at the long term,” Irving said.

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