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Nets trading Kyrie Irving makes no sense despite banishment

Nets, Kyrie Irving, Kyrie Irving trade

Recently, the Brooklyn Nets formed an executive committee with folks like team governor Joe Tsai, general manager Sean Marks, head coach Steve Nash, Kevin Durant and James Harden. They met to discuss the fate of unvaccinated superstar Kyrie Irving, and decide if he should be allowed to play for the Nets this season since he is ineligible to play in Brooklyn, due to the local vaccination mandates. They determined that they won’t entertain any part-time players this season.

In many ways, random circumstance has thrown the Nets a peculiar hurdle. The Washington Wizards don’t have this issue because Bradley Beal, who is admittedly unvaccinated, is eligible to play in every game. It’s a local restriction that Brooklyn is dealing with which has contributed to this being the biggest story in the NBA. It’s also big because the Nets are the league’s best team (and possibly even without Irving in the lineups). So what do they do?

Trading Irving makes sense in a lot of ways. He is in a contract year (assuming he does not sign an extension and assuming he opts out next summer) so they could look for someone who fills a need (defense maybe) with more years remaining. A player like Ben Simmons often comes up since he wants out of Philadelphia and his pass-first, defense-first approach wouldn’t hinder a team with as much scoring and shooting as Brooklyn has.

Some might argue there is even a moral imperative to trade Irving. If for example, the team happens to disagree with Irving’s anti-mandate stance, maybe Joe and Clara Tsai believe there is integrity in aligning themselves with athletes whose world view better aligns with their organization. Tsai recently offered The Athletic he was fully vaccinated twice; once overseas and once again in the US. He is vocally pro-vax.

But Tsai did also acknowledge that he respects vaccination as a personal health choice yet urged everyone with the team to remember the ultimate goal is to win a championship. And with that goal in mind, it makes sense to ride this thing out for a little bit with Irving on the squad.

“First Take’s” Stephen A. Smith claims the Nets are so disgusted with Irving, they’d give his ass away for a box of cookies. But doing so would ultimately be taking a moral position and putting it well above a basketball and business decision. Cookies can’t hoop like Kyrie can. And they can’t hoop like say Ben Simmons either, the player most connected to Irving in trade talks.

According to Sam Amick of The Athletic: 

“One thing is for sure — at least for now. While an Irving trade for Ben Simmons with Philadelphia is seen by some as an easy solution to both teams’ problems, sources with knowledge of the 76ers’ view said there is no interest in Irving at the moment.”

So there is the rumor that if the Nets traded Irving for Simmons Kyrie could just retire. There are rumors that Irving’s trade value, given this whole saga, isn’t what his talent would suggest it should be.

Looking at this from another team’s perspective it may not make sense to offer fair value for Kyrie. He is mired in a bigger-than-sports controversy. People aren’t really sure what his opinion is, even after the Shams Charania update about being a “voice for the voiceless,”  for those losing their jobs over local mandates. He hasn’t spoken publicly on this stuff. He didn’t want to keep playing with LeBron James once. He wasn’t happy in Boston and that didn’t help the locker room chemistry. He disappears for “personal reasons.” Now this.

Yet if we take Tsai at his word that this is all about rings, it doesn’t make sense to trade Irving for pennies on the dollar when his trade value is so understandably low.

If the Sixers wouldn’t even part with Ben Simmons due to a concern he’d retire, or fit poorly, or leave for another team next summer, then what player would be available?

Is it an All-Star caliber performer or not? For my money, the right move here is to ride this out. I’d give Irving some time. Kyrie doesn’t strike me as a “casual” in terms of basketball. He’s so good with a ball in his hands that I just think he’d miss hoops if he suddenly didn’t have it. I understand he’s a unique personality.

As Vince Goodwill wrote for Yahoo Sports: 

“Irving is wealthy and dazzling, but puzzling and nonsensical far more than he is insightful. His career has been full of consistent inconsistencies, yet he yearns for the respect and admiration of his peers and the public at large.”

If Sean Marks were presented with a fair offer offer it would make sense to just take it. And Ben Simmons probably represents the best combination of talent, fit, and remaining (four) years. He may not be as talented as Irving, but if he were available to play it would make sense to swap. But if Irving’s trade value is much lower than that, then ride this out and hope to persuade him to make his stand and then get vaccinated. His voice might only grow stronger with another ring on his finger anyway.