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The Nets Gave Kyrie Every Chance To Douse The Flames He Fanned—And He Instead Poured More Fuel
What did you have in the “How will Kyrie Irving sabotage his availability to play regular season games for the Nets this year?”
The 2020 winner had the mercurial star guard citing personal reasons, reportedly his experiencing anguish over social injustice/January 6, that caused him to miss seven games and spurred Nets management to empty their asset cupboard in a trade with Houston for Kyrie insurance in James Harden. Last season, it was Irving’s objection, based on misinformation, to getting the COVID-19 vaccine in accordance with New York City mandates, which resulted in him suiting up for just 29 games.
So who had promoting hateful and antisemitic content in a social media post as this season’s prediction? The Nets announced on Thursday that Irving will be suspended for “no less than five games” and he “satisfies a series of objective remedial measures that address the harmful impact of his conduct.”
Yeah, let’s not hold our breath waiting for that. Irving is notoriously stubborn when it comes to his beliefs, as evidenced by the multiple opportunities he had to put out the flames if he would only just say, “I’m sorry” in one of his press conferences this week.
Instead, during Thursday’s session with the media after a Nets practice, Irving parroted some of the ignorant takes in the content, such as how he can’t be antisemitic because of his heritage.
This is what you get when you hitch your wagon to a player as unreliable as Irving. I too bought into dealing with the devil when the Nets astounded the NBA world by signing Irving so he could team up with his friend Kevin Durant, one of the top 15 players ever, back in the 2019 offseason. Delusions of parades down Atlantic or Flatbush Avenue erupted in my head. KD and Kyrie are that great on the basketball court.
One playoff series win in three seasons later, and it could all come crumbling down. Not that the Nets didn’t try to make it work. Make no mistake, if Irving wasn’t so awesomely talented, one of the highest-skilled players in the game’s history when factoring in his size with his sublime handles and finishes at all three levels, he wouldn’t have been given the Steve Howe treatment of extra chances to right a wrong. The Nets, who were lambasted over the last week for their soft-shoe responses to the controversy, finally reached their breaking point with his performance on Thursday. (Side note: The league didn’t come out of this smelling like a rose either. The initial statement condemning hate speech didn’t even mention Irving by name. Nor did Commissioner Adam Silver impose any disciplinary sanctions as is his right. Not a great week for such a PR-conscious organization—besides the Irving mess, the Spurs waived Joshua Primo for allegedly exposing himself nine times to a team psychologist, Charlotte ascending forward Miles Bridges pleaded no contest to a domestic violence charge, and, if things weren’t so crazy in Nets Land, the organization was reportedly engaging with former Celtics coach Ime Udoka, at least prior to the latest Irving development, to replace ousted Head Coach Steve Nash, despite the alleged sordid circumstances with women in the Celtics building that led to Udoka’s one-year suspension.)
As such, it wouldn’t be shocking if Tuesday’s stinker (4 points on 2-for-12 shooting, 3 turnovers) in the 108-99 loss to the Bulls was Irving’s final appearance in a Nets uniform. Unfortunately, trading Irving, of whom one NBA executive called “radioactive” in a conversation with ESPN analyst Zach Lowe, won’t be easy to pull off. I’d imagine the Lakers would still do a Russell Westbrook-for-Irving-plus (to match salaries—Irving counts for approximately $36.9 million against the Nets salary cap; Westbrook is being paid a whopping $47.1 million, which could mean extraordinary incremental luxury tax payments owed by Brooklyn), but could the Nets even get one first-round draft pick back now? Nothing like selling at the low point.
Given the current situation, maybe it would have been better if the Nets had just blown the whole thing up back in the summer when Durant requested a trade and Irving was miffed that he didn’t receive a fully-guaranteed max extension. At the time, the Nets looked at all their options and concluded that giving this one more year, with Ben Simmons expected to be fully recovered from his mental and physical issues and providing a sorely-lacking defensive and playmaking presence, was the most prudent.
Eight games in, it’s all falling apart. The coach was relieved of his duties, Simmons was a shell of his former self before hurting his knee, and Irving, to no one’s surprise is back in purgatory. Congrats to the pool entrant who guessed how correctly.