NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JANUARY 03: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets calls a play during the … [+]
One NBA agent summed up the latest Kyrie Irving saga this way: “It’s one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen.”
And for this league, that’s saying something.
The NBA is investigating a recent video that showed Irving at a family birthday party which took place at a venue in his native West Orange, NJ. The investigation began on the same day the league implemented several additional safety protocols as cases rise and games continue to be postponed due to the pandemic.
“There’s just no defending that. You simply can’t do that. C’mon,” was how one member of an opposing front office put it. “They should suspend him.”
It was the latest case of bad optics for Irving, who has missed the last four games and counting due to “personal reasons.” The Brooklyn Nets are upset with their franchise point guard over his recent actions, league sources confirmed. Irving remains out indefinitely.
Nets GM Sean Marks all but confirmed that unhappiness in a vague statement in which he offered nothing along the lines of “we support our player” or anything to that extent.
“Kyrie remains away from the team due to personal reasons. A date for his return has yet to be finalized. … Kyrie will have the opportunity to address his absence when he is ready to do so,” Marks said, while acknowledging the team is aware of the video and the league’s investigation.
If Irving is found to have violated rules, he will end up forfeiting $460,000 — or 1/72nd of his salary — for every game he misses.
A lack of transparency regarding the situation from Irving, his camp and the Nets has led many to speculate on the reason for the 28-year-old’s absence. People around the league expressed astonishment that nothing has leaked after all this time.
Everything seemed to be in place for Irving heading into the 2020-21 campaign. He was finally healthy. He was playing for his hometown team – alongside best friend, Kevin Durant, who was also finally healthy. They were finally ready to take on their critics together.
Early on, they looked like world-beaters. And they still might be again later this year.
But what appeared to be a one-game, mental-health related absence for Irving against Philadelphia due to the Capitol Riot and the shootings of Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake – and the lack of punishments in both cases – has turned into something more.
Late Tuesday, Irving was on a Zoom Meeting with Tahanie Aboushi, a candidate for Manhattan District Attorney and a Civil Rights lawyer. Also on Zoom: Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon. The meeting occurred right before Brooklyn took on Denver, with Irving absent.
“One game is ridiculous,” opined another NBA agent. “Multiple games is just (screwed) up.”
The video appears to be what finally caused Marks to break his silence on the matter. And it’s fair to wonder why he didn’t say something sooner. It’s also fair to question his handling of his superstar players now that he has them, after he was rightfully praised for signing them.
Other questions remain. Steve Nash has been unfairly asked to take the brunt of them, much like Kenny Atkinson last season while Irving and the team were silent for several weeks regarding his shoulder injury.
Nash is a rookie coach working with a championship-or-bust team. He can’t be happy with Irving’s absence — which began with Irving not reaching out to Nash — as Brooklyn tries to build chemistry and cohesion. “Sure,” Nash responded on Tuesday when asked by a reporter if he believed Irving would return this season.
Irving’s latest transgressions follow a similar pattern of bad optics, from Cleveland to Boston to Brooklyn. It had people around the league Tuesday comparing him once again to Stephon Marbury, another extremely talented yet mercurial floor general. It also had them wondering about revisiting talks with Houston on a 1-for-1 blockbuster deal involving James Harden (who has also blatantly broken protocols but missed no games). Granted, it’s hard to believe the Rockets would be into that trade now.
Just this season alone, there’s been the digs by Irving at Nash and ex-teammate LeBron James on KD’s podcast, the media “pawns” saga, his body language toward Nash in calling timeout against Washington — “I get the justification (at his annoyance over continually being dominated by bigger players in the post), but it just looked bad,” one source said. — and now this partying fiasco.
With Spencer Dinwiddie also out after undergoing ACL surgery, the burden now falls to Durant – who was just out for 18 months rehabbing his own Achilles tear – to carry the load. On Sunday night, KD said he supported Irving 100 percent, and was praying for him. Suddenly, Durant doesn’t have his co-star, and the questions are only going to continue until Irving finally breaks his silence. Worst of all, the team is 5-6. This can’t be what KD signed up for.
Still, it also must be said that the NBA is simply better when Irving is playing games and wowing viewers with his razzle-dazzle dribbling moves and unlimited range. He’s never been afraid to take the big shot, and has already hit one of the biggest shots in NBA history. Irving’s philanthropic efforts, as has been mentioned, also deserve repeated praise.
Ultimately, Kyrie Irving needs to make things right with the Nets. But first, he needs to get himself right.
There’s still time to make it all work. But the Nets are going to need Irving to be fully invested for that to happen. He’s got to be committed. Otherwise, Brooklyn isn’t going anywhere. And with Irving, no one knows what’s going to happen next. Literally, anything is possible.