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NBA

Kyrie Irving wants to stay with the Brooklyn Nets

The star point guard touched on many topics, including his heavily criticized vaccine stance as well as his desire to help ‘manage’ the team.

Paul Rudder
Update:
Kyrie Irving declares that he wants to stay with the Brooklyn Nets after they crashed out of the NBA Playoffs against the Boston Celtics.
Anadolu AgencyGetty

Having gone from being one of the teams favored to win the championship to out in the first round, the Nets have some soul searching to do. On the flip side one of their stars seems to have already committed

Can Kyrie Irving’s commitment to the Nets be trusted?

If you’ve been paying attention, you will remember that back in late 2018, Kyrie Irving who was at the time playing for the Boston Celtics, reassured season-ticket holders among others that he would be going nowhere “if you guys will have me back.” Indeed, Irving effectively pledged his allegiance that day, but it didn’t take long before he walked back on that declaration and finally made his way to the Brooklyn Nets where he is today. Why is that anecdote important? Simply because Irving just did basically the same thing after seeing his current team eliminated by - you guessed it - the Boston Celtics.

During the Nets’ postgame press conference, Irving directly stated his intention to resign for the Nets, but with that it must be said that there are a few things to consider aside from the irony. Firstly, Irving has a $36.9 million player option for next season. Assuming that he does not opt to activate it, one can imagine that he will be seeking a long term extension. The second is perhaps a slightly more puzzling piece of information to think about. Irving, who has never hidden the idea that he considers himself part of the team’s management alongside fellow star and cornerstone player Kevin Durant, directly said that he looks forward to “managing this franchise” when speaking about his return. What does that mean?

What exactly did Kyrie Irving say?

As mentioned before, it would seem that Irving considers himself as not just a player on Brooklyn’s roster, but an essential part of its management as well. Indeed, Irving spoke openly about where he sees himself in the team’s hierarchy.”When I say I’m here with Kev, I think that it really entails us managing this franchise together alongside Joe and Sean and just our group of family members that we have in our organization. ...So it’s not just about me and Kev, I don’t want to make it just about that. We are cornerstones here, but we have Ben, we have a few other guys under contract. And I think we just gotta make some moves this offseason, really talk about it and really be intentional about what we’re building and have some fun with it, make it enjoyable and hopefully we get to start from Day 1 just as a squad and as a family and we just really worry about us. You know, sometimes I feel like the noise on the external world or outside noise can seep in, and, you know, I’m not the type of person to allow that to happen. So as we build together as a squad, I just think we need to be tougher mentally and just more honest about what we want to accomplish and just stick to the goal, stick to the mission.

The question here is ‘how should we take Irving’s comments?’ On one side, it’s not uncommon in any team sport today that key players have some degree of say in the decision making process. On the other, the manner in which Irving speaks, one could be forgiven for wondering whether or not the Nets have an actual coach, which is to say ‘what role does Steve Nash play?’ With that said, let’s stay on track. The Nets were just unceremoniously dumped out of the playoffs after a great deal of expectation. Regardless of what Irving says, there is definitely a period of restructuring on the way. Will he stay or will he do as he did before with the Celtics after offering what appeared to be a sincere display of loyalty? Only time will tell.

Vaccines and the future: Kyrie Irving clears the air

Where his future is concerned, Irving stated that his hope was to stay. “In terms of my extension, man, I don’t really plan on going anywhere,” he said. Yet there was also the elephant in the room, namely the effect of his vaccine stance on the team and the subsequent scenario that unfolded as a result of it. The point guard appeared to accept that the situation was not ideal when he said that he felt as though he was “letting the team down.” One will recall that during that period he was unable to play in home games due to his refusal of the covid-19 vaccine. “...It became a distraction at times,” he said.

As far as the future is concerned for the Nets, it must start with a look at the present. This season was nothing short of a catastrophe for Brooklyn. If it wasn’t Ben Simmons absence through injury, a lack of synergy or a failure to compensate for the loss of James Harden, it was most definitely about Kyrie Irving’s unavailability due to the vaccine mandate. If we use history as a guide, the last time Kyrie experienced a similar scenario with a team i.e. a failure to live up to expectations and an early playoff exit was during the 2018-19 season with the Celtics. Just as is the case now, the Celtics went out of the playoffs earlier than expected and in the end Irving left. What then will Kyrie Irving do this time?

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