Superstar guard Kyrie Irving has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons throughout this season — one in which he was supposed to be teaming up with Kevin Durant and James Harden to get the Brooklyn Nets to an NBA Finals they whiffed on last spring. Instead, Irving has been on the sidelines because of his typically selfish behavior and his wacky decision-making surrounding the vaccination for the deadly COVID virus.
The Nets recently added to the chaos that always seems to surround Irving by caving to the wishes of Durant and Harden and agreeing to allow the guard to return for road games only. Of course, Irving isn’t eligible to play in the state of New York — or Canada, for that matter — because of his insistent stubbornness about getting vaccinated to protect himself and teammates from the death and destruction the coronavirus (COVID-19) inflicted on the world — and New York City, in particular — over the past 21 months.
Irving has practiced some with the Nets — between a stint in the NBA’s health and safety protocols — but there still is no firm timetable on a return for games. The franchise would be wise to eliminate the cancerous distraction and embarrassment Irving has become and trade away the guard before he ever dons a Brooklyn jersey. Yes, they should do so, even if it means taking back less talent.
While the Nets have been solid so far, they have yet to play to their full potential
A somewhat fitting confluence of events on Saturday cost the Nets the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings. While Chicago’s DeMar DeRozan was becoming the first player in NBA history to hit game-winning buzzer-beaters on consecutive nights in Washington, the Nets were sleep-walking through a dismal loss to a shorthanded Los Angeles Clippers squad. That poor performance clearly irritated Durant.
Sure, the Nets are still in prime position to grab the East’s top seed come playoff time, but their play has left a lot to be desired. That was the case last season when the Nets failed to beat out Philadelphia for the top seed and blew a 2-0 lead in the playoffs against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks.
This season, the Nets are a disappointing 11th in the league in scoring (110.4 PPG) and 13th in 3-point shooting (35.4%) — likely products of Irving and his dynamic drive-and-kick game being absent. Conversely, they rank first in the league in 3-point percentage allowed (31.6%) and second in total field goal percentage surrendered (42.9%) — statistics likely aided by Irving and his often freewheeling and careless defense being absent.
Add it all up and Brooklyn’s point differential — a statistic that almost always is indicative of a team’s potency — sits at a plus-3.3. That certainly pales in comparison to what Golden State (plus-9.9) and Utah (plus-9.9) have done.
Trading Irving could eliminate the duplication with Harden and help the team become much deeper and more versatile
The firepower of having “The Big Three” of Durant, Harden and Kyrie Irving on the floor is unquestioned. That pairing gives the Brooklyn Nets three players who can initiate the pick-and-roll, finish at the rim and carry an offense. It would be similar to how the Bucks often stagger point guard Jrue Holiday with fellow stars Khris Middleton and Antetokounmpo. Also, the Bulls always try to keep either Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic, or DeRozan on the floor at all times.
In having two ball-dominant players in Harden and Irving on the floor together at the same time, there’s too much duplication. Plus, the Nets want the ball in the hands of Durant as much as possible.
Wouldn’t the Nets be a more well-rounded team if they approached Portland about trading for a shooter like C.J. McCollum and a hard-nosed wing defender like Robert Covington? How much more complete would the Nets be with high-level defenders Malcolm Brogdon and Myles Turner that the Indiana Pacers have apparently decided to unload? Or having a roster that included rugged two-way players Pascal Siakam and OG Anuoby?
The Nets would be wise to rid themselves of the distraction and embarrassment that Irving has become on a daily basis
Maybe the most important reason why the Brooklyn Nets should deal Kyrie Irving is his absolute tone-deafness when it comes to ignoring the death and destruction that the COVID virus has wreaked on New York. For Irving to say, “We just want everyone to remain safe,” is hypocritical and disingenuous because he won’t take the step that has proven most effective in keeping others safe from death.
According to the state of New York’s governmental statistics, New York City was the epicenter of the pandemic in April of 2020 when there were an average of 6,577 cases and 761 deaths a day. Fortunately, those numbers of COVID-related daily deaths in New York City declined in January of 2021 (88) and by the end of 2021 (27) as more and more people turned to vaccinations as a way to end the spread of the killer virus.
Irving refusing to get vaccinated and potentially protect his teammates in the face of such overwhelming data is disrespectful to all those who died before vaccine safeguards were available. Of course, Irving doesn’t want to cause harm to anyone purposefully, but his refusal to consider the possibility of just that happening speaks to his selfishness. Team sports have always been about players making sacrifices and putting the group’s well-being ahead of self, and it speaks to Irving’s self-centered nature that he declined to do his part.
Sadly, the Nets caved on Irving being all in or not at all, primarily because of — what else? — a COVID outbreak that weakened the roster. Durant and Harden also played significant roles in Irving being allowed to return. Clearly, their (short-sighted?) focus is more on trying to win a championship than on the health and safety of the squad.
At some point soon, Irving could be back on the floor for a road game — maybe in Chicago on Jan. 12 or during the Nets four-game trip to Cleveland, Washington, San Antonio, and Minnesota from Jan. 17-23.
But the Nets should never even let this sham of a situation with a defiant Irving available only for road games get that far along. Instead, they would be wise to cut out the cancer, eliminate the distraction and rid themselves of the embarrassment that Irving has become. Sure, Durant and Harden might not like it, but the franchise would be right to get Irving off their team before he ever dons a Brooklyn jersey again.
Statistics courtesy of ESPN.com
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Over 423 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given in the United States from December 14, 2020, through November 1, 2021. COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.”