NEW YORK — One day after he requested a trade, Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving will not play in Saturday’s game against the Washington Wizards because of right calf soreness, the team announced.
On Friday, Irving told the Nets he wants out of Brooklyn ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline after failing to negotiate terms on a long-term contract extension, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Irving did not attend the pregame walkthrough Saturday, and Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said it was unclear whether Irving would attend Saturday’s game. Vaughn said he spent Friday speaking to each player on the roster individually, including Irving, but Vaughn said he did not ask Irving why he had requested a trade.
“I didn’t ask those questions,” Vaughn said Saturday. “There’s a business side to this thing and there’s a human side to this thing. I elected to touch on the human side and check on him as an individual. I’ll leave the business side to Sean [Marks, the general manager] and that group.”
Irving was not initially listed on the first injury report Friday, but he will now miss his third game this season because of injury — he also missed eight games because of his suspension in November — as the drama and intrigue around his future in Brooklyn grows prior to next week’s trade deadline.
Vaughn said he was approaching Irving’s absence on a day-to-day basis and wasn’t sure when Irving would return to the floor. Vaughn also had a simple response when asked what he said to the rest of the group to make sure news of Irving’s request doesn’t become a distraction.
“So I said to them, ‘We’re not going to make this weird,'” Vaughn said. “‘We’re here to play, we’re here to do a job. Show up and do your job. You’ve done the first step of this thing, we’re here, we’re showing up. And let’s do the work to get a win tonight.’ That’s what I’m going to continue to try and focus them on. That’s what I’m focused on and look forward to try and get a win.”
Irving, 30, is averaging 27.1 points, 5.3 assists and 5.1 rebounds this season.
Nets big man Ben Simmons also will miss his fourth straight game Saturday because of left knee soreness. Vaughn said Simmons went through an individual workout Friday and is expected to do another workout Saturday, but it remains unclear when he’ll be able to return to the floor.
The Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns are already expressing interest in discussing an Irving trade and the Dallas Mavericks are expected to do so soon, sources told ESPN on Friday.
Irving did not furnish a list of preferred teams, but his marketplace is small and it’s clear he is hoping that a team will trade for him with the intention of signing him to an extension in the offseason.
For their part, Irving’s teammates admitted they were surprised when they found out about news of his request.
“We were like everybody else. We were caught off guard,” center Nic Claxton said Saturday. “But we can’t — I can’t — judge a grown man for his decisions. At the end of the day, he’s doing what’s best for him. And I stand by him and I stand with my teammates here in this locker room.”
Claxton, who said he had been in contact with Irving, has spoken several times over the last year about how Irving has been a solid teammate.
“At the end of the day, we’re all our own individuals and we have to do what’s best for us,” Claxton said. “And if that’s what a grown man thinks is best for him to do, then that’s what’s best for him to do. I can’t judge anybody for what they want to do.”
Said Vaughn: “I think you have responsibility as a basketball player. Like I do as a coach. I show up, I do my job every single day. That’s what I signed up for and that’s my expectations for 1-17.”
Irving, who is in the final year of a deal that pays him $36.9 million, has been seeking in the neighborhood of a four-year, $198.5 million maximum extension available to him until June 30, sources said. If Irving is traded, he will be eligible to sign a two-year, $78.6 million extension with his new team until June 30.