The long-expected marriage between Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets is almost here.
ESPN reported on Saturday that the Nets will meet with Irving when free agency opens on Sunday night and both sides are 'motivated to move quickly' to agree on a max contract of four years and $141 million.
The Irving signing means the end of D'Angelo Russell's run in Brooklyn. SNY reported earlier this month that it was highly unlikely that Russell would remain in Brooklyn if Irving signed there. ESPN reported Saturday that Brooklyn is expected to either renounce Russell, which would allow him to become an unrestricted free agent, or execute a sign-and-trade.
If they renounce Russell, it would open up enough cap space for the Nets to sign a second max free agent. A sign-and-trade - depending on how it's executed - could accomplish the same goal. ESPN has reported that the Lakers and Russell have mutual interest in a reunion.
One of the biggest targets for Brooklyn - and for any team with max cap space - is Kevin Durant. Something worth noting on Durant: despite reports on television and radio suggesting otherwise, the Nets are not the leader for Durant.
Durant reportedly will communicate with teams, including the Nets and Knicks, on Sunday night at the beginning of free agency. But several executives monitoring the Durant situation don't believe Durant would be interested in being seen as someone who followed another player to a team. Assuming Brooklyn agrees quickly to a deal with Irving and Durant and did so subsequently, the narrative could be shaped that Durant was following Irving to Brooklyn.
No matter how it plays out, the Nets are expected to add one of the top point guards in the NBA to a team that reached the postseason last year. If the Nets don't land Durant, they are expected to have interest in Tobias Harris, SNY has confirmed. Harris is expected to have several suitors.
The Nets are expected to also keep an eye on Jimmy Butler's situation, SNY sources say. Some members of the organization are fans of the free agent, but their specific level of interest in signing Butler is unclear. Butler is expected to re-sign with the Sixers if he receives a max offer. If not, several teams have reportedly shown interest in acquiring Butler in a sign-and-trade. The Athletic reported that Brooklyn is among the teams interested in Butler.
So it will be interesting to see if Brooklyn lands a second max player alongside Irving - or if Irving comes alone.
Either way, the move to sign Irving is seen as risky because of how Irving's Celtics failed to reach expectations last season. The general perception is that Irving struggled in a leadership role with his younger teammates. The Nets, somewhat similar to the Celtics, have a young core. If the Nets return the young core, which is expected, there will be plenty of analysis over how Irving leads this young Brooklyn group in the wake of Boston's struggles with Irving in the lead role last season.
Regardless of how things play out in Brooklyn in the Irving era, it's remarkable that the Nets put themselves in position to land one of the top free agents on the market.
The team was left without many assets or much young talent in the wake of the Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce trade. But Brooklyn, under GM Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson, has rebuilt its foundation and culture, increasing its win total from 20 games three seasons ago to 42 wins and a playoff berth last season. And now they have one of the top point guards in basketball. The move also leaves the Knicks, who earlier this year hoped to pair Kevin Durant and Irving, with one less option on the market.