Brooklyn Nets star guard Kyrie Irving plans to exercise the player option on his contract for 2022-23 that will pay him $36.5 million, a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed to USA TODAY Sports.
The person requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly until the move becomes official.
Irving’s future with the Nets has been the topic of much speculation headed into NBA free agency, which begins Thursday. There was some talk that Irving was interested in playing elsewhere and that still could happen.
Irving could have declined his player option and became a free agent, but there aren’t many contenders with salary cap space to sign him. There was the possibility of a sign-and-trade with another team but a deal could not be reached, ESPN reported.
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Irving issued a quote to The Athletic, which first reported the news. "Normal people keep the world going, but those who dare to be different lead us into tomorrow. I’ve made my decision to opt in. See you in the fall. A11even," Irving told the outlet.
The Athletic said Irving is committed to the Nets and teammate Kevin Durant for the fourth and final year of his contract. But that doesn’t mean that the Nets won’t trade him before or during the season.
Irving played in just 29 games last season because he did not receive the COVID-19 vaccine and was ineligible to play in home games at Barclays due to the city’s vaccine mandate. By the time the playoffs arrived, he was eligible to play in home games, but the Nets were swept in the first round by Boston.
Regardless, Irving is a spectacular – albeit enigmatic – talent who averaged 27.4 points, 5.8 assists, 4.4 rebounds and shot 46.9% from the field last season.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Brooklyn Nets' Kyrie Irving to exercise $36.5M option in contract