Kyrie Irving Is Watching His Tarnished Legacy Continue to Crumble as NBA Teams Are Wary of His Tired Act: ‘Every Front Office and Coaching Staff Is Scared to Death of Him’
The Brooklyn Nets have enjoyed a solid 7-4 start, and they can thank Kyrie Irving for exactly none of it.
Irving continues to sit out due to his refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Given how Brooklyn is paying Kyrie over $16 million to not play, the organization would love the idea of shipping him anywhere else if it meant getting players ready to contribute immediately. But it takes two to tango, and right now, the Nets can’t buy a dance partner.
Kyrie Irving won’t play for the Nets anytime soon
Any chances Irving had of playing this season were quickly dashed by his own team. After New York City’s vaccine mandates prevented Irving from suiting up in any home games, the Nets announced Irving would stay away from the team altogether until he receives the vaccine or NYC lifts the mandate. For a brief time, there was hope in the latter.
NYC is in the process of transitioning to a new mayor. Eric Adams is set to replace Bill de Blasio after winning the mayoral election in early November. Soon after the election, Adams told MSNBC he would revisit the city’s mandates on January 1. However, when it came to Irving, the mayor-elect shot down any high hopes.
“New York is not going to change their rules,” Adams said on CNN. “It’s up to the NBA and Kyrie Irving to work something out.”
With no imminent changes in NYC on the horizon and Kyrie remaining firm, Brooklyn would be wise to explore moving the seven-time All-Star. However, given Irving’s increasingly negative reputation, it’s far easier said than done.
Irving trade value is rapidly declining
NBA teams are hardly inclined to part with a 29-year-old All-NBA player in the midst of his prime. But Irving is hardly a typical superstar, and his “uniqueness” is making potential suitors hesitant.
HoopsHype recently spoke to several anonymous executives around the league to gauge Irving’s market. So far, there’s no indication of any trade being close, both now and in the immediate future.
“For the most part, every front office and coaching staff is scared to death of him and doesn’t want to touch him,” one NBA executive said. “Honestly, it might’ve been four teams before this [his refusal to get vaccinated]. He’s a guy that front offices don’t trust. Coaches don’t want to deal with him. Players like him.”
“He’s a max player, who people would not give up assets you’d traditionally give up,” another executive added. “There’s so much risk associated with him that I think most teams wouldn’t pay in a trade what you’d expect someone to pay given his skill level when he’s at his best.”
Kyrie Irving’s legacy is forever tarnished
Five years ago, Kyrie Irving was Uncle Drew; a championship hero for the Cleveland Cavaliers and one of the most skilled players in NBA history. Now, he’s Kyrie Irving, a player whose belief in wild conspiracy theories has forever damaged his reputation.
It would be one thing to simply believe in a flat earth. But Irving’s knack of latching onto disinformation has now come during a pandemic. One that has taken the lives of millions across the globe. By refusing the vaccine, Kyrie is not only putting himself at risk, but potentially many others who follow him.
For what it’s worth, Kyrie is not the only unvaccinated player in the NBA. But what continues to put the 29-year-old in his own stratosphere is the fact he’s simply unlikeable. Plain and simple. From a basketball perspective, he’s a player who’s downright difficult to deal with.
“If he didn’t agree with the philosophy, he was going to do his own thing,” Irving’s former assistant coach told HoopsHype. “In coaching, you always hope the player will at least try the coach’s way. Most coaches will see they’re trying to execute, and if it’s not working, they change it. Kyrie is like, if this isn’t going to work, I’m not going to do it.”
Eventually, when the pandemic ends, Irving is going to return to the court. Whether it’s as a member of the Brooklyn Nets or not, who knows? But the last couple of years will be what Irving is remembered for, and that’s the sad reality.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.