Irving says he's returning to Nets next season

by Gordon Dixon - Kyrie Irving says he's opting into his $36.5 million option with the Brooklyn Nets for next season.

Kyrie Irving says he's opting into $36.5 million option with Brooklyn Nets 6:48 PM ET ESPN Kyrie Irving is opting into his $36.5 million option with the Brooklyn Nets for next season, he told The Athletic on Monday. "Normal people keep the world going, but those who dare to be different lead us into tomorrow," Irving told The Athletic. "I've made my decision to opt in. See you in the fall. A11even." Irving had created a list of teams he would have liked the Nets to consider working with on a sign-and-trade if they couldn't agree on terms for him to stay in Brooklyn, but the Los Angeles Lakers were the only known team to be interested, sources told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Without the ability to find a sign-and-trade deal, Irving decided to exercise his player option, sources confirmed. He had until Wednesday to make a decision. Irving is now no longer eligible for a sign-and-trade. The Nets could still work to trade him as an expiring contract, but Irving would have no formal voice in a potential landing spot. Irving, 30, averaged 27.4 points, 5.8 assists and 4.4 rebounds last season but only played in 29 regular-season games. By deciding not to get vaccinated against COVID-19, Irving was ineligible to play in New York City because of a city vaccination mandate for employees. When he did play, Irving reminded everyone just how talented he still is as evidenced by a stretch in both March and April when he scored at least 40 points in four games, including 60 during a March 15 win over the Orlando Magic . There were usually large gaps in between when he could play in the schedule until New York City mayor Eric Adams reversed course in late March and allowed a vaccination exemption for athletes and performers. Irving played in all four games of the Nets' first-round loss to the Celtics in the playoffs. A seven-time All-Star and three-time All-NBA selection, Irving has averaged 27.1 points and 6 assists while shooting 49% from the field and 40.6% from 3 over the last three seasons. But due to a variety of injuries and other issues off the floor, Irving has played in just 103 regular-season games over that span. ESPN's Nick Friedell contributed to this report.