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James Harden, Kyrie Irving have wait-and-see attitudes on contract extensions

Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden is defended by

Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden is defended by Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo in the first half of Game 7 in the Eastern Conference semifinals at Barclays Center on Saturday, June 19, 2021. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

When Kevin Durant signed a four-year extension worth $198 million with the Nets in August, general manager Sean Marks expressed confidence James Harden and Kyrie Irving also would sign extensions by the time training camp started. That’s not happening.

Training camp opens Tuesday in San Diego, and Harden and Irving both said at media day on Monday that they are taking a patient approach to negotiations.

"Honestly, I’m just taking my time," Harden said. "I’m just going to focus on trying to bring a championship to the city. As far as an extension, I’m just trying to be patient with it. I want to make sure I’m in the right mindset, knowing long-term that, ultimately, I want to be in Brooklyn for the rest of my career. So it’s no rush, and we’re going to have fun with it."

Harden can make more money if he waits another year to sign an extension, but he said, "It’s not about the money for me. My goal is to make sure that we’re able to continue to build this team to be able to compete for multiple years at the highest level."

That comment hinted at the need for certainty about whether Irving will be in the fold long-term. Irving did not attend media day and declined to clarify whether he is willing to comply with New York City’s vaccine mandate in order to play home games this season.

But during a Zoom media session presumably from his home, Irving responded when asked if there are any obstacles that might prevent him from signing an extension and whether the Big 3 are on the same page.

"Well, I totally respect James’ stance," Irving said of Harden’s negotiations. "He’s going to do what’s best for him and his family, and I know that we’re all really close and we have open communication with each other. We know how each other feels relatively, but we have a mutual respect for one another.

"So we’ll just take it one day at a time. We’re having great talks. It’s going well. We know that the future is on our side, just being able to maximize our potential in these next coming years to make a few runs at the championship . . . Me personally, I’m just taking it one day at a time, and I’m the same as James, being patient. We’re still communicating. We’ll just wait and see. It’s going well, though."

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