There may not be a more high-maintenance player in the NBA than Kyrie Irving, a polarizing, oft-injured presence who just happens to be one of the most talented scorers of his generation. Recently, Irving spent the final three games of Brooklyn’s postseason run as a spectator, nursing an ankle injury as the Nets, led by Kevin Durant and a hobbled James Harden, took the Bucks to overtime of Game 7 before finally bowing out of the Eastern Conference semis Saturday night at Barclays Center.
With their Big Three at full strength, the Nets are as dominant as any team in the league—at least offensively—and, depending on what the offseason brings (Kawhi Leonard headlines this year’s crop of available free agents while Ben Simmons, Damian Lillard and Kristaps Porzingis have each emerged as potential trade chips), should be considered title favorites heading into next season. Of course, things are never that simple when Kyrie is involved. In fact, according to author Matt Sullivan, who literally wrote the book on the Nets, Irving may not be long for Brooklyn.
“In the last week I’ve heard rumblings—whispers, really, because cracking the Nets is kind of like breaking into the Kremlin—that Brooklyn GM Sean Marks would maybe, possibly, apparently be willing to at least listen to a trade offer for Kyrie this offseason,” revealed Sullivan during his recent guest appearance on USA Today’s Celtics Lab podcast. “It’s not like Ben Simmons giving you the headache on the court. It’s that complex personality that comes from off the court. I think it’s been annoying some people in the franchise. I can’t speak to his teammates, who obviously want to play with one of the world’s best and get him back there.”
The 29-year-old has appeared in just 83 games (postseason included) since joining Brooklyn in 2019, but evidently, that’s all it’s taken for him to get under management’s skin. Per Sullivan, the Nets were “quite upset” for a stunt Irving pulled in January, appearing mask-less at a party. Irving would ultimately miss seven games for “personal reasons” and violating the league’s COVID policy.
The Nets knew what they were getting with Irving, who has been a head case everywhere he’s played since arriving in the league in 2011. Accepting the good with the bad—and there’s plenty of baggage to go around, as his former employers, the Celtics and Cavaliers, would attest—is all part of the Kyrie experience. It’s hard to see Brooklyn dissolving its star trio of Irving, Durant and Harden (who only played together a handful of times this year due to injuries), especially after the Nets gave up almost a decade worth of draft picks in the Harden trade. But Irving’s corrosive personality has worn thin on teams before and has already alienated some within the Nets’ organization. Ultimately, it will be up to Marks to determine if Irving is worth the headache.