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Kyrie Irving of the Boston Celtics reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets during the preseason game at Dean Smith Center on September 28, 2018 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

It appears nothing has changed with what Kyrie Irving prefers as a free agent. But the questions remain as to how badly his preferred team wants him.

As reported on Tuesday by NBA insider Zach Lowe at ESPN, Irving still has the Brooklyn Nets at the top of his list of desired destinations as an unrestricted free agent. The big question mark, however, is whether the Nets would sign him without also luring Kevin Durant as the crown jewel of a package deal.

Irving has reportedly been actively recruiting Durant in recent weeks. If the Nets can’t sign Durant, or get cold feet about signing him just weeks after a major Achilles injury, that could complicate things with Irving.

That’s not necessarily new. But it’s striking that Lowe is the latest of multiple plugged-in NBA reporters saying the Nets have pause on signing Irving as a “solo” act after witnessing the Celtics’ implosion. Are they willing to risk a similar downfall by inserting Irving as the de facto leader of another young locker room?

May 6, 2019; Boston, MA: Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving reacts during the second half in Game 4 of the second round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs against the Milwaukee Bucks at TD Garden. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

May 6, 2019; Boston, MA: Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving reacts during the second half in Game 4 of the second round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs against the Milwaukee Bucks at TD Garden. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

From Lowe’s report:

“Irving might not be a poor character guy — you get divergent answers about this — but he is a volatile presence. He overwhelmed Boston’s locker room and was a key ingredient in detonating the Celtics’ chemistry before they developed any. Brooklyn cannot know what he will do to the environment that Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson have so carefully nurtured — only that it will change forever the moment he enters.”

Irving may simply be the very expensive piece of bait that reels in the actual big fish for the Nets in Durant. But if it turns out that he needs to be the big fish, that would make the Nets’ decision much harder.

Whatever the Nets do with Irving will be very telling for the status of his market as a whole.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.