The Brooklyn Nets thought they had pulled off a coup by signing NBA champions Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant this past summer.
Both had been targeted by the Knicks in the Big Apple, and surprised some by joining Brooklyn.
Things have not turned out this way. While the Nets’ brass knew Durant would likely miss the 2019-20 season with a torn Achilles, the Irving experiment has failed at every turn.
Here’s the deal: Irving has missed each of the past 13 games with a shoulder injury.
- There’s concern that the injury could be more serious than what the Nets are letting on. The NBA champion is not close to returning to the team.
- Injuries have been somewhat of an issue for the enigmatic Irving over the past few seasons.
- In fact, the former No. 1 pick has missed nearly 80 games over the past four seasons. That’s an issue some teams had in free agency when determining whether to offer him a max contract.
Irving’s personality: Much like what we saw in Cleveland and Boston, the star guard has apparently created drama in Brooklyn.
- It was noted back in late October that Irving’s “mood swings” are making the Nets a bit “queasy.”
- Said report indicated the “when Irving lapses into these funks, he often shuts down, unwilling to communicate with the coaching staff, front office and sometimes, even his teammates.”
- Irving’s personality didn’t change once he demanded a trade from LeBron James’ Cavaliers team to the Celtics. It has not changed thus far in the Big Apple.
- This comes after an emotional message Irving had for his hometown fans ahead of his debut in Brooklyn back in October.
It’s not everyone else: At some point, we have to come to the conclusion that Irving is indeed the problem.
- It’s the old adage that if you’re seen as something by the masses it might not be the masses who are at fault.
- Irving’s attitude towards James and the city of Cleveland after requesting a trade magnified this.
- It has not gotten much better as it relates to how Irving views Boston, the Celtics’ brass and their fans.
There has to be legit concern within the Nets’ brass that Irving’s attitude and standoffish ways could have wide-ranging implications moving forward.
General manager Sean Marks and Co. have attempted to build a winning culture — one that includes community. That’s why it was hard for the organization to trade D’Angelo Russell this past summer despite it becoming a necessity to acquire both Irving and Durant.
On the court: It’s not like the Nets have been better with Irving on the court thus far this season.
- While he averaged 28.5 points over the course of the first 11 games of the season, Irving was more of a hero ball persona on the court than anything else.
- Brooklyn went a pedestrian 4-7 in those 11 games and ranked in the bottom three in defensive rating.
- Since Irving went down with the shoulder, the Nets rank in the middle of the pack in defensive rating and have gone 9-4. The one common denominator here has been Kyrie.
- This isn’t to say he’s not an elite talent. We already know Irving is just that. But how much of a difference does he actually make? Just ask a Celtics team that’s 17-6 on the season.
The contract: This could end up being an albatross of a contract should Irving continue to struggle with his attitude and injuries.
- Irving is set to earn $104-plus million over the next three seasons following the 2019-20 campaign. It could become very similar to the contract the Rockets signed Chris Paul to back in 2018.
- That is to say, having to yield multiple draft picks just to simply unload the bloated contract.
- Should Irving continue to struggle with injuries, his attitude will only be magnified further. Remember, there was concern that the star’s temperament would not do well in the Big Apple. Those concerns have now been magnified.
The Kevin Durant dynamic: We already know this two-time NBA Finals MVP also has a fickle personality. It could get interesting between Irving and Durant moving forward.
- Durant felt underappreciated in the Bay Area. He lashed out at the media. He didn’t feel a sense of team with an organization that had prided itself on that.
- All of this came in the midst of the Warriors earning a fifth consecutive NBA Finals appearance.
- Just imagine how this might be impacted under the brighter lights of Broadway and without as much unlimited success.
- Durant and Irving were a packaged deal. It’s not unlike the Hampton’s Five recruiting KD to the Warriors.
- Said relationship with Golden State’s Big 3 took a turn. What’s to say this won’t happen between Irving and Durant in the Big Apple?
The bottom line
It’s hard to draw a conclusion about Irving’s four-year contract less than a third of the way into his initial season with the Nets. That’s fine and dandy. Maybe I am a bit premature on this.
But we’ve seen this dog-and-pony show before. LeBron was the problem in Cleveland. The city of Boston and its fans were the problem. Maybe it’s just Irving being the issue. He’s the one common denominator.
Add in injury issues, a bloated contract and some reported drama behind the scenes. When combined, it’s not hard to draw the conclusion that Brooklyn’s signing of Irving is already a bust.