When Kyrie Irving left the Boston Celtics for the Brooklyn Nets during the 2019 NBA free agency period, there weren’t many in Boston sad to see him go. While he is one of the league’s top point guards, and arguably the best ball handler the game has ever seen, his temperament can leave a lot to be desired inside a locker room full of NBA stars.
It’s early in Irving’s Brooklyn tenure, but there have already been reports of Irving’s behavior in the Nets locker room. That begs the question — do the Nets regret signing him to a long-term deal, only a few months into the contract?
Kyrie Irving spurns Boston for Brooklyn
When the Celtics wrapped up their 2018-19 campaign, there was a lot of speculation whether Irving would re-sign with the team. He put up All-Star caliber numbers yet again, but his inability to be a leader in the locker room rubbed some teammates the wrong way.
Throughout the season, it seemed like the Celtics were a pot waiting to boil over, whether from a big blow-up from Irving, or from one of the younger players such as Terry Rozier, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown, who weren’t keen on Irving’s leadership tactics.
When Irving signed with the Nets (which didn’t surprise former Celtics star Kevin Garnett one bit), he was able to get one of his closest friends in Kevin Durant to join him, even with Durant missing this season due to an Achilles injury. The biggest question we had going into the deal was: could Irving be the leader he wasn’t able to be in Boston?
So far, it does not look like things have improved at all.
Is Irving already a problem for the Nets?
After Kyrie Irving disputed a report by ESPN’s Jackie McMullan regarding his behavior, Stephen A. Smith backed up his colleague on First Take. Smith said:
“I am not hearing good things about Kyrie in Brooklyn. People are putting stuff out there. I don’t think it’s fair. I’m telling you there is stuff circulating out there about him from an attitude perspective.”
That could be taken in two different ways. The first is Smith could be looking to stir up a hot take. That’s what ESPN pays him for, and he is no stranger to having public spats with NBA stars about the validity of his sources.
The second is that there could be a truth to his claims that people in the Nets organization are looking to start the building blocks for moving him during the 2020 offseason by having him perceived as a negative influence in the locker room.
Did Brooklyn make the smart choice in signing him?
Since it looked like Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant would be a package deal, we can’t knock the Nets for swinging for the fences for both players to bring the team a championship at the end of the 2020-21 season.
That does not put Irving in a good light, however. After not appearing in Boston for the Nets’ first game back in the city since he left, there seems to be a growing surge of negativity surrounding Irving’s public image.
What is expected of Brooklyn this season?
While the Nets don’t have KD to help them with their current push for the playoffs, the team should still be able to get there with Kyrie Irving leading the way. The roster is still full of shooters and combo guards that can make an impact on both ends of the floor.
The culture in Brooklyn has changed, and expectations should be a top-four playoff seed in the East. Getting past Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, Jimmy Butler and the Heat, or Kemba Walker and some of Irving’s former Boston teammates won’t be easy, but the Nets still have the pieces to make a solid playoff run.