NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Kyrie Irving appears ticketed for the Big Apple, but not the borough so many assumed.
According to multiple reports, the superstar guard is leaning heavily toward joining the Brooklyn Nets when the free agency signing period opens on June 30. It was widely believed that the New York Knicks were a leading contender for Irving, but that possibility has lost momentum in recent days.
The Los Angeles Lakers, fresh off trading for power forward Anthony Davis, are reportedly interested in Irving as well.
Irving, 27, the former No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft, is considered one of the top point guards in the NBA and can play shooting guard, something that could happen if the Nets decide to hold on to D’Angelo Russell. The 23-year-old restricted free agent will carry a $21 million salary cap hit in 2019-20 if retained. Various reports, however, have suggested Brooklyn could end up with Irving or Russell, not both.
Reports have also indicated the Nets’ strong interest in pairing Irving with free agent power forward Kevin Durant, despite the fact that Durant could miss all of next season after having surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles’ tendon. Brooklyn is expected to have enough cap space to sign two max free agents this summer.
A six-time All-Star, Irving played his first six seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, winning the NBA championship alongside LeBron James in 2015-16. Irving spent the last two seasons with the Boston Celtics, and is averaging 22.2 points and 5.7 rebounds for his career.
In 61 career playoff games, Irving is averaging 23.5 points and 5.0 rebounds.
The Nets are coming off a surprise season in which they finished 42-40 — their first winning campaign since 2013-14 — before losing to the Philadelphia 76ers in five games in the first round of the playoffs.
Assuming Russell doesn’t return, Irving would take over as the offensive leader on a team that features guard Spencer Dinwiddie (16.8 points per game in 2018-19), small forward Caris LeVert (13.7 ppg), shooting guard Joe Harris (13.7 ppg, 47.4 percent shooting from 3) and center Jarrett Allen (10.9 ppg, 8.4 rebounds).
Despite the reported interest in Durant, Nets general manager Sean Marks is still expected to be aggressive in acquiring a power forward for next season.