The Brooklyn Nets are a disaster on the court, and their point guard, Kyrie Irving, is determined to make them a source of drama off the floor. Following Saturday night’s loss to the Indiana Pacers, Irving got into a back-and-forth with ESPN reporter Nick Friedell over a tweet by Irving promoting the anti-Semitic movie “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America!”
The exchange was terse, prompting Irving to end his availability and on his way out he yelled “change your life bro” at Friedell. This Nets season is a disaster and it’s time for owner Joe Tsai to move on from Irving and tear this whole thing down and start over.
— 𝐓𝐚𝐥𝐤𝐢𝐧' 𝐍𝐁𝐀 (@_Talkin_NBA) October 30, 2022
Kyrie Irving yells "change your life, bro" after @NickFriedell pushes him on the antisemitic rhetoric in the movie. Says "I wish we cared more about Black reproductive rights and all the things that actually matter than what I'm posting."
— Laura Albanese (@AlbaneseLaura) October 30, 2022
Irving is a walking contradiction and his assertion that he didn’t do anything illegal or hurt anybody is disingenuous. Irving is aware of the level of influence that he has, as he speaks to it and denies it in the same breath.
“I’m not here to be divisive, so they can push their agenda — I don’t want to say ‘they’, because I’m not identifying any one group or race of people — but I’m in a unique position to have a level of influence on my community,” said Irving. “You guys come in here and make up this powerful influence that I have [and say] you cannot post that. Why not?”
Kyrie first proclaims:
“I’m in a unique position to have a level of influence on my community.”
Less than a minute later, Irving states: “I am no different than any other human being… You guys come in here and make up this powerful influence I have.”pic.twitter.com/ASrfcxjNJ0
— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) October 30, 2022
Right or wrong, Irving has a level of power and influence over many. His celebrity, fame basketball exploits and riches allow for that in a society that prioritizes these things. He knows this is true. He knows anything he posts on his social media accounts will become a news cycle. He also knows whatever he posts will be viewed as direct or tacit support of whatever is posted.
These are the rules of the game. He knows this.
Irving presents himself as a “free thinker” and someone always seeking “truths.” He purports himself as being very intelligent. The problem is, when he is pushed or asked to explain himself for items he pushes or promotes, he feigns ignorance of the rules or pushes back and doesn’t feel the need to explain himself.
If people want to follow Irving down his misguided path of “enlightenment” that’s on them. But the Nets don’t have to.
Irving is owed $36 million for the rest of this year. Ben Simmons will likely need about 30 games or so to get his rhythm, timing and confidence back after an 18-month absence. Head coach Steve Nash has lost the locker room. The team isn’t connected and playing for one another. There is a huge leadership void.
At 1-5 with no signs of improving, poor season ticket sales, why continue down this road?
The one thing the Nets can guarantee is that Irving will continue to be a distraction off the floor, and no matter what his teammates say, it’s a distraction.
“So I’m not going to stand down on anything that I believe in,” Irving continued. “I’m only going to get stronger because I’m not alone. I have a whole army around me.”
The Nets have no draft capital and an overinflated payroll. But they do have young emerging talent in Nic Claxton and Day’Ron Sharpe, although the latter hardly plays. Rebuild.
Waive Irving and essentially pay him to stay away from the facility. Tsai is a billionaire. He could afford it. Trade Kevin Durant. He’s still playing at an All-NBA level and is signed for three more years. The Nets won’t get back equal talent, but they could get back young talent on cheap deals and restock their draft capital.
It’s not a solution fans likely want to hear early in the season. But barring a miracle, if things continue down the path they are on in Brooklyn it will be far worse.