In July of 2019, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving signed to play together for the Brooklyn Nets. And at the time, this move shook the foundation of the NBA. For the Nets, this was arguably one of the best days in franchise history. After all, the last time they had stars in Brooklyn, it all fell apart. And this a second chance to bring winning basketball to the Barclays Center. However, ever since bringing in the two dynamic stars, the Nets have failed to get past the second round. In addition, they didn’t even get a playoff win this year. Kyrie KD and crew lost to the Boston Celtics in 4 games, and were the only team swept in the first round of the playoffs.
There’s a lot of different things and people you can blame for the Nets dysfunction. However, I would make the argument that it needs to start with cutting ways with Kyrie Irving. Although Irving is one of the greatest ball handlers and scorers the game has ever seen, the bad has officially began to outweigh the good. When you can’t rely on a player to be both consistently present and that you can’t count them to play defense either, it’s time to consider making a change.
Kyrie Irving is unreliable
Ever since Kyrie Irving left the Cleveland Cavaliers, Irving has been a distraction almost nonstop. Whether it’s something Irving says to the media, or something cryptic he posts online, Irving has become a headache that is almost unmanageable. In fact, in Kyrie’s 11 seasons in the NBA, he has only played in more than 60 of the 82 games 5 times. Sometimes, he’s gone due to injury. Other times, Kyrie just doesn’t want to play. And this season, due to Kyrie’s stance on the COVID vaccine, Irving only played 29 games. With the state of New York’s mandate, Kyrie wasn’t allowed to play at the Barclays Center unless he decided to be vaccinated. And knowing that, Irving chose to sit on the sidelines.
Despite hopes and chatter of the possibility of Kyrie changing his mind, Irving knew that he was standing firm. And with that, causes turmoil within the locker room. James Harden perhaps would still be on the Brooklyn Nets if Kyrie Irving was vaccinated. No one can argue the ceiling of this team is objectively higher with James Harden with KD and Kyrie than not. And even though when Kyrie was on the court, he was playing good basketball, it wasn’t leading to wins either.
Kyrie doesn’t take accountability
After their loss to the Celtics, Kyrie Irving spoke to the media. And in that press conference, he said he felt at times he let the team down. However, Irving also stated that he sees himself and Kevin Durant as helping manage this team. He wants to be involved in front office decisions and to have a say on the construction of this roster. In addition, when the Nets brought in Steve Nash, Irving stated that it felt like they didn’t have a head coach, but rather they could lead by committee. He believed that him Nash and Durant would lead the team together. The problem is, you can’t take on leadership roles when you can’t admit your wrongdoings.
One thing that has been clear with this mindset from Kyrie, is that it doesn’t work. Especially when you can always count on Irving to miss at least a quarter of the NBA season. On the other side of the court this playoffs was a well run team. It was an organization with vision, with two players who are committed on both ends. And they played with an offensive and defensive intensity that Irving and Durant couldn’t replicate half of. They were built on defensive fundamentals, but also on playing together. Sacrificing for one another. Something that Kyrie Irving hasn’t done his entire NBA career.
Irving needs a reality check only the Nets can provide
Kyrie Irving wants to stay a Brooklyn Net. In fact, he’s in the position to ask for a five year contract that can pay him over 200 million dollars. And in my opinion, the Nets shouldn’t offer him a contract at all. If they do, it’s because Kevin Durant wants him there. The problem is, Kevin Durant could be the only one that wants him there. Irving’s availability from injuries alone is warranted enough hesitation to not pay a max contract. But with the extra drama and noise that comes with Irving, it should be more than enough to tip them over the edge.
As a basketball talent, Kyrie Irving is elite. But in the modern NBA, Irving is no longer so. When healthy, he can still produce at a high level offensively. And when engaged, Irving has shown he has the fundamentals to defend well. However, if Irving’s number one focus is not the game of basketball, which is hasn’t been, he shouldn’t be paid maximum dollars. The Nets should not commit to Irving’s salary more than one year at a time. They need to remind hem there’s consequences to his actions, and the only one that can turn around his perception and his woes on the court, is him.
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