The Brooklyn Nets suspended star guard Kyrie Irving on Thursday evening after he failed to apologize and declare that he is anti-Semitic in post practice media availability earlier in the day. Following the announcement of the suspension Irving took to his Instagram account to finally apologize for his actions. He did the right thing, but it’s too late. The Nets need to move on and put this ugly tenure behind them.
“Such failure to disavow antisemitism when given a clear opportunity to do so is deeply disturbing, is against the values of our organization, and constitutes conduct detrimental to the team. Accordingly, we are of the view that he is currently unfit to be associated with the Brooklyn Nets. We have decided that Kyrie will serve a suspension without pay until he satisfies a series of objective remedial measures that address the harmful impact of his conduct and the suspension period served is no less than five games,” read the Nets team statement.
Irving’s path to repairing fractured relationships won’t be easy. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who is Jewish, expressed great disappointment in Irving, who he knows personally. Nets GM Sean Marks says before Kyrie can return to the team, he has to undergo “counseling” to manage his hate issues and the All-Star guard will also have to sit down and meet with Jewish leaders to discuss his “antisemitism.”
Irving was defiant late Thursday morning when he spoke to the media after practice and given the opportunity to apologize and disavow antisemitism. He referred to himself as a “beacon of light” and being unafraid.
"I'm a beacon of light. I'm not afraid of these mics, these cameras. Any label you put on me I'm able to dismiss because I study. I know the Oxford dictionary."
Kyrie Irving with a lengthy answer on the public reaction to his sharing of an anti-Semitic film on social media: pic.twitter.com/JgG9hOFQiU
— Nets Videos (@SNYNets) November 3, 2022
The backlash on Thursday was intense and forced the Nets to suspend Irving. He left them no choice.
“To All Jewish families and Communities that are hurt and affected from my post, I am deeply sorry to have caused you pain, and I apologize. I initially reacted out of emotion to being unjustly labeled Anti-Semitic, instead of focusing on the healing process of my Jewish Brothers and Sisters that were hurt from the hateful remarks made in the Documentary.”
That it took intense backlash, public reprimand from NBA commissioner Adam Silver, and a suspension to push Irving to apologize tells you everything you need to know.
Irving is a brilliant basketball player and one of the most skilled players the game has ever seen. He’s a champion and made one of the most famous shots in NBA Finals history. But that brilliance is not worth all the baggage that comes with it.
Organization Lost Its Way
Just three seasons ago the Brooklyn Nets were a team full of overachievers and incredible player development stories. They had a grinder for a head coach in Kenny Atkinson and a culture that blended basketball and intrapersonal team dynamics.
In their pursuit of Irving and Kevin Durant they lost all of that and Irving has run roughshod on the organization since his arrival.
In 2019 during training camp in Santa Barbara the team’s performance staff as it has always done wanted the players to use wearables to track metrics. Irving balked. On the trip to China later that summer Irving refused to remove his hat for a team photo.
That season he played in only 20 games as he dealt with an injury and disagreed with the team on how to manage it. Depending on what reports you believe, he was instrumental in having Atkinson fired that same season.
The following season he took an unexcused 10-day absence from the team. During that absence he was seen at a birthday party violating the league’s COVID-19 safety guidelines and on a Zoom session for Tahanie Aboushi, a former Democratic candidate for Manhattan district attorney.
Last season he refused to comply with the New York City COVID-19 vaccine mandate like the rest of his teammates and was ineligible for home games. His refusal brought media and public backlash upon his organization and his limited availability negatively impacted team chemistry as he only played in 29 games.
In every season Irving has been a member of the Brooklyn Nets there has been some issue that has limited or altogether prevented him from doing the thing he is best at, playing basketball. Most of them self-inflicted.
What Do Nets Do With Kyrie?
The Nets need to send Irving away from the team permanently and move on as an organization. Nets governor Joe Tsai is a billionaire and billionaires don’t like sunk costs. But he doesn’t need to give in to the sunk cost fallacy.
Irving is owed $36.5 million this season, the last year he is under contract. The idea of paying him not to play sounds crazy on the surface, but not if it means your work environment will be more pleasant.
With Irving gone and no longer a part of the organization they don’t have to answer questions about his actions going forward.
In the short term the team is worse, but let’s be honest. This team is currently 2-6, just fired the head coach and show no signs of being an actual unit much less a contender. Their next five draft picks are not in their control. It’s already pretty bleak.
Trade Durant and recoup some draft picks and young talent and move another tradable contract or two, like Joe Harris and Seth Curry. These are two elite shooters who have a ton of value. Teams will give up draft capital to acquire them.
The grand experiment in Brooklyn has failed. Time for the Nets to put this ugly affair behind them. No need to waste time blaming people. The business of basketball and team building has to become a priority again.