Big contract decisions take center stage in NBA playoffs

The Brooklyn Nets don’t have much to show for their years-long approach to restoring the mercurial Irving. Their hopes of opening an extended championship window with Kevin Durant, Irving and Harden faded almost overnight, with the Boston Celtics able to sweep them in the first round on Monday. Irving, 30, failed to live up to his reputation for playoff heroism, and his decision to stay unvaccinated set the tone for this scrappy season before it even started.

Even though the unexpected challenges of the pandemic are behind him, Irving’s unreliable health and self-reliant approach are constant problems. Irving has missed at least 15 games in each of the last five seasons, and Harden’s departure placed a huge burden on Durant to carry the load when his co-star was unavailable. Durant, 33, looked exhausted against Boston in arguably the most disappointing playoff series of his glittering career.

Irving is eligible for a five-year extension worth nearly $250 million, which would lock him in alongside Durant, who signed a four-year, $198 million extension last summer. Unfortunately, the Nets are likely stuck with Irving: his trade value is at or near an all-time low, and Durant has given every indication he wants to continue playing with his close friend. Their partnership has worked on some levels – generating box office interest, jersey sales and TV ratings – and that may be enough for ownership and management to take a long dive. term. If that’s the case, outsiders should be much more skeptical of Brooklyn’s title hopefuls.

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