While the New York Knicks have historically been the top team in the Big Apple, the Brooklyn Nets took a step forward during the offseason. The club managed to sign both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in free agency. Although the forward was already injured, Irving was supposed to provide a boost for the 2019 Nets; unfortunately, the guard has only played in 11 games so far.
Irving is currently on the sidelines with a shoulder injury, but his estimated return date has come and gone. So what’s really going on with the Brooklyn Nets’ star point guard?
Kyrie Irving’s road to Brooklyn
After bursting onto the national scene in high school, Kyrie Irving committed to play his college ball at Duke University. While his freshman year was blighted by a toe injury, the guard’s stock remained intact; the Cleveland Cavaliers made him the first overall pick of the 2011 NBA draft.
Irving didn’t miss a beat at the pro level, taking home Rookie of the Year honors during his first NBA campaign. He then made the All-Star Game as a sophomore and took home the All-Star Game MVP Award in the following season. By the time LeBron James returned to Cleveland, Irving was averaging more than 20 points and six assists per night.
As part of a “Big Three” with LeBron and Kevin Love, Irving and the Cavs took off. They reached the NBA finals in 2014-15—Irving fractured his kneecap in Game 1, and Cleveland eventually fell to the Warriors—but managed to get over the hump the following season. The club made a third-straight trip to the finals in 2016-17, but that wasn’t enough; despite the Cavs’ consistent success, their point guard wasn’t happy.
In the summer of 2017, Irving requested a trade to move out of LeBron’s shadow; the Cavs complied, shipping the guard to Boston. Things, however, still didn’t click for Irving. While he kept producing at a high level, the chemistry just wasn’t there. Rumors started swirling that the guard was unhappy; before long, those murmurs grew into stories that Irving didn’t buy into the team culture or really want to be a Celtic.
Kyrie Irving’s mysterious shoulder injury
During the summer of 2019, Kyrie Irving finally got the chance to choose where he would play. He signed with the Brooklyn Nets, but it’s been quite a while since the guard actually hit the court.
When the Nets visited Boston in the end of November, Celtics fans were ready to welcome Irving back to town. The guard, however, was nowhere to be seen; the guard was sidelined with a shoulder injury. While Kendrick Perkins suspected the injury was a ruse to avoid facing a hostile crowd, it seems to be a legitimate issue.
Irving last played on November 14th, but no one is quite sure when he’ll be back in action. The Nets diagnosed him with a “right shoulder impingement” and expected him to resume practicing in mid-December, but Irving still isn’t cleared for contact. Heavy.com reported that the organization was internally calling the injury “thoracic bursitis” and expected the guard to miss two or three more weeks; there are also reports that Irving is dealing with a mental health problem, in addition to a physical one.
Things are made even muddier by the fact that the Nets haven’t confirmed any setbacks. “What you’re telling me — whatever that report [from Heavy.com] said is not true,” head coach Kenny Atkinson said. “We’re still in the same place the last time I talked. Like I said, the thing is we haven’t gotten to the contact with him. We’re on-court workout situation but the contact just hasn’t been cleared yet. I think that’s the next hurdle. I wish I could tell you when that is. Hopefully sooner rather than later.”
No matter what the actual issue is, the Nets should clear the air
When the Brooklyn Nets signed Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, they knew the forward would miss the 2019-20 campaign. The point guard, however, was supposed to hold down the fort in his absence.
While the Nets are doing fine without Irving, everyone will want to see Kyrie hit the court as soon as possible. For all of the guard’s issues since leaving Cleveland, he’s still an incredibly talented player; even if this season doesn’t matter, he’s under contract for three more seasons, and the Brooklyn will want to make a postseason push. Both Irving and the Nets need stability, not another saga focusing on Kyrie’s physical health, mental well-being, and willingness to play professional basketball.
If nothing else, the Nets should step up and clarify the situation. At this point, no one is benefitting from the secrecy. Whether Kyrie Irving has a physical health problem, a mental health problem, or anything in between, he deserves a chance to recover without being the subject of constant rumors and conjecture.