Kyrie Irving has a game that can, at any moment, blow up the internet with a jaw-dropping move that makes shake your head and wonder how anyone can do what he does.
He can also do the same off the court.
After the Nets lost to the 76ers on Wednesday, in a game Irving went 6 for 21 and struggled to get into a rhythm, the star point guard was asked how far his team needs to go to reach the level of the Sixers.
“I mean, it’s transparent, it’s out there, it’s glaring in terms of the pieces that we need in order to be at that next level,” he said.
Let’s be reminded that Kyrie and the Nets will be adding Kevin Durant next season. That should close the gap, right?
Apparently not. Kyrie included KD when he started naming players that he felt were “great pieces” before he added that “it’s pretty glaring we need one more piece or two more pieces to complement” the core they have in place. Others he named included DeAndre Jordan, Garrett Temple, Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert and . . . and . . .
That was it.
How did that make guys like Joe Harris and Jarrett Allen feel?
Charles Barkley torched him Thursday night on TNT.
“We talked about it at the beginning of the year, this was his chance to be a leader,” Barkley said. “And you missed half the season and come out and say stupid stuff like this, I think you’ve got to be really concerned if you’re the Brooklyn Nets going forward because you’re putting all your eggs in these two guys’ baskets and if they’re not going to be leaders, it’s going to be two shiny pieces, but they’re not going to win.”
Kenny Smith added, “I don’t know the purpose of saying that when KD isn’t even here . . . And if that’s an internal feeling, to say it outwardly does offend your teammates.”
The Nets (18-22) had thrived without Kyrie during his long absence due to a shoulder injury, as Dinwiddie emerged as a scorer. Eventually it caught up with them and they have fallen to 8th in the East and have lost eight of their last ten games. Irving has played just 14 games so far.
And now all of this is controversy is extremely sensitive in relation to Kyrie because of the fallout he had with LeBron James in Cleveland and then the locker room issues he had with some teammates in Boston. Irving has often blamed media for the controversy that seems to travel with him from team to team. It was one of the concerns about him going to the No. 1 media market as a free agent.
So on Friday, his response was terse and directed mainly at the media.
“At the end of the day, I always say, it’s an entertainment league,” Irving added. “We’re very drama-filled. Everything regurgitates on all these media platforms, which is part of our society. I really can’t do anything about it except to really be a pillar in our locker room, be very communicative and when I’m out there with the guys, impact winning. That’s really what it comes down to.”
“It’s not like I’m an ——-, yelling at everybody in the freaking locker room all the time,” he added. “You hear all these stories . . . It is what it is. I’ve earned that respect as far as how great I am as a player and there’s still more goals I want to accomplish in this league and I can’t do it without improving an organization and winning a championship. And that’s what it comes down to.”
“I’m going to continue to push, I’m going to continue to demand greatness out of myself and greatness out of my teammates and we go from there.”
Kyrie then grinned as he looked up over the cameras in his face.
“If it’s harsh as a leader or too much for anybody, you’re not in our locker room, stay the —- out,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”
Is it yet obvious that JJ Redick’s podcast on The Ringer is a must-listen? In the previous column we told you about what Zion Williamson revealed to Redick about leaving Duke and now we are here to tell you about something Redick said that is also noteworthy.
And something us “OK Boomer” types have noticed for a while.
“I really believe this,” Redick said. “There are more guys concerned with getting a pregame ‘fit’ on Instagram than they are worrying about the win and loss of a basketball game.”
Social media is a big part of what all of us involved in sports do on a daily basis. The athletes provide the content, and we make content from that content and fans consume it all in mass quantities. But is it too much? Are today’s athletes too focused on their followers instead of on being a leader?
I’ve often made the observation that it’s ironic how social media and our phones have actually made us less socially active in real time. For instance, have you ever noticed when you get into an elevator with other people, a majority of them will immediately pull out their phone and mindlessly scroll through it while riding up to their floor? No eye contact, no conversation. Yet quickly go to social media to see what total strangers are saying or doing or what strangers reacted to something you posted.
Knicks second year forward Kevin Knox recently said he was taking a break from social media after having a discussion about it with his mother.
“I talk to a lot of the vets and they tell me the same thing: social media is a big distraction for athletes,” Knox said. “So they always tell me to get off it as well.”
But when it comes to what Redick said, that is alarming. Perhaps more alarming is it seems there is no turning back from it.
Remember a few weeks back we told you about the NBA proposing some dramatic changes to the NBA schedule and playoff format? Well, those plans reportedly have been put on hold for now.
There was anticipation that the Board of Governors in April would vote to implement some interesting ideas that would shorten the season and bring a much different look to the NBA calendar, but according to ESPN that is now not in the plans. The NBA has instead told teams that it will put more time into assessing the plans, which included an in-season tournament, a wild card-style round for the playoffs and re-seeding the conference finalists.
According to the report, the idea to re-seed the conference finalists — which would eliminate East or West affiliation and simply structure the pairings based on the records of the remaining teams — has been met with the most negative response.
The in-season tournament, which would include all 30 teams, still needs more definition before it can be implemented. Initially, the idea was the play the tournament between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but ESPN said there have been more recent discussions about running it after Christmas and into mid-January. That makes sense because, as we’ve discussed here in previous columns, these are the dog days of the NBA season. It would add some intrigue and spice to the doldrums of the season.
It does appear that the “wild card” round, which would involve seeds 7 through 10 playing for the final two playoff spots in each conference, is a well-received idea. I love it. Let’s keep more teams focused on staying in the hunt rather than mulling the idea of dumping veterans and forcing young players who aren’t NBA-ready to play bigger roles, all in the holy name of the “process”.
Overall, the plans would reduce the regular season from 82 games to 78 but to get more value out of the regular season, which the broadcast partners want. There was hope that these changes would be ready for the 2021-22 season, so we will have to wait to see when the league is ready to bring them to a vote.