From a sheer talent standpoint, the Brooklyn Nets assembled one of the great Big 3’s ever. They’ve already lost James Harden. Now, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are likely on their way out, too. But, there is only one person to blame for this entire debacle: Kyrie.
There was a firm belief that KD would stick it out with the Nets after Irving opted into his player option last week. However, just days later, Durant requested a trade, which is already the biggest news in NBA Free Agency. This downfall started far before Brooklyn’s first-round exit in the playoffs, though.
KD convinced Kyrie to come play with him. Then, Harden ended up joining forces with the star duo in January of 2021, only for the three of them to play less than 20 games together due to injuries. Yes, health played a huge part in this entire debacle, but Irving’s off-court drama stole the headlines and brought bad energy into the Nets locker room.
Rewind back to the 2020-21 season. Kyrie didn’t take just one, but two leaves of absence away from the team. Why, you ask? Well, he cited family reasons, but it was actually because the January 6th riots at Capitol Hill were so traumatizing to him. Irving was seen out at his sister’s birthday party and did get fined as a result for breaking the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Remember, he is unvaccinated. During that time he was not available for the Nets, they acquired Harden. We know how that ended.
From that point on, the animosity and tension were already there. Once the 2021-22 season rolled around, it was the same story. No vaccination meant he couldn’t play. The rules eventually changed slightly and Kyrie played in road games and towards the end of the campaign, at the Barclays Center again. Nevertheless, you better believe his stance against getting the jab made others uncomfortable around him. Although KD and Harden did voice it wasn’t a big deal to them earlier in the season, it proved to be a distraction. The unwanted attention was all over the Nets.
In three seasons with Brooklyn, Irving has played in 103 games. Absolutely ridiculous. Then, he expects to receive a long-term extension from the franchise and acts surprised when they aren’t willing to do such a thing. All of these events led up to Kevin Durant essentially saying “I gotta get away from all of this and go play elsewhere.”
Kyrie Irving is a tremendous basketball player. When healthy, he’s arguably top-five in the Association. But, he was truly a cancer during his time with the Nets and he deserves the brunt of the blame for the collapse of this failed experiment. The team never reached their title aspirations and with the way things are shaping up, it’ll be a long time until they’re even in the conversation again.