Because the Nets’ disappointing season reached its finish after they have been swept by the Boston Celtics within the first spherical of the Japanese Convention playoffs, Kyrie Irving made clear that he was dedicated to the Nets for the long run.
However after a season through which Irving performed solely 29 of the 82 common season video games due to his refusal to adjust to a neighborhood vaccine ordinance, do the Nets need him again?
That query loomed over the workforce’s season-ending information convention on Wednesday held by Normal Supervisor Sean Marks and Coach Steve Nash. Whereas Marks was reluctant to provide a transparent reply, that he didn’t instantly say “sure” spoke almost as clearly as something he might have mentioned. The Nets haven’t determined but if Irving can and needs to be a part of their future.
“I believe we all know what we’re on the lookout for,” Marks mentioned. “We’re on the lookout for guys that wish to are available right here and be a part of one thing greater than themselves, play selfless, play workforce basketball, and be out there. That goes not just for Kyrie however for everyone right here.”
That theme of availability endured all through Marks’ remarks, and has been difficult for the Nets’ star gamers.
Irving and Kevin Durant signed with Brooklyn to nice fanfare in 2019, however the Nets have but to reap the advantages of including two multiple-time All-Stars who had every gained championships by themselves. Durant missed all the 2019-20 season whereas recovering from an Achilles’ tendon damage he sustained within the 2019 finals with Golden State.
Final season, they added James Harden by means of a commerce with Houston, creating what was presupposed to be a formidable lineup. They misplaced to Milwaukee within the Japanese Convention semifinals final season regardless of 48 factors in Recreation 7 from Durant, who hit a buzzer-beating 2-pointer to tie the sport in regulation. His toe was on the 3-point arc — the shot was mere millimeters from being a game-winner.
Slightly than constructing on that close to miss, the Nets went backward this season.
Irving declined to be vaccinated towards the coronavirus, which meant he wouldn’t be capable of play in video games in Brooklyn or at Madison Sq. Backyard for many of the season. The Nets initially determined they didn’t desire a part-time participant, and mentioned Irving wouldn’t play till he was eligible for all of their video games. They abruptly modified course in January and Irving started solely taking part in in street video games outdoors New York and Toronto.
On Wednesday afternoon, Marks declined to rethink that call, whereas once more stressing the significance of a participant’s availability.
“When you’ve gotten a participant of Kyrie’s caliber, you try to determine: How can we get him within the combine and the way lengthy can we get him within the combine for?” Marks mentioned. “As a result of the workforce was constructed round saying, ‘Nicely, Kyrie and Kevin are going to be out there.’”
Irving’s absences made the Nets’ margins that a lot slimmer. Any time Durant or Harden have been injured, that meant the workforce was down two starters as a substitute of only one. As they handled coronavirus-related absences, like many groups did, that they had fewer gamers on whom to rely.
“There have been a wide range of groups on the market and the groups which can be nonetheless taking part in to today, they could not have had fairly the extent of the reasons that we are able to give you, however they needed to navigate Covid as properly, they needed to navigate accidents,” Marks mentioned. “And if I’m going to be brutally sincere, they navigated it higher than we did.”
Harden bored with Irving’s absences and the challenges they posed. He was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers, who play in Recreation 6 of their second-round sequence towards the Miami Warmth on Thursday night time.
Within the commerce, the Nets acquired Ben Simmons, who didn’t play a sport for them. Simmons had again surgical procedure on Could 5 after magnetic resonance imaging confirmed a “herniation had expanded,” Marks mentioned.
In speaking concerning the workforce’s huge stars, Marks largely spoke of Durant alone. He mentioned Durant was a draw for different gamers across the league — that individuals needed to play for him. He mentioned Durant is the workforce’s finest participant improvement coach. He talked of eager to contain Durant in personnel choices, with out asking him to truly make these choices.
“Folks assume participant empowerment means you simply allow them to do no matter they wish to do,” Marks mentioned. “That wasn’t the case when Steve was a participant. That wasn’t the case once I was a participant on any of the groups we’ve been on. That’s not the case right here. I believe involving gamers on key choices at specific factors within the season is the proper strategy to do it. There’s nothing worse than having gamers stunned by one thing.”
Whether or not Irving returns to the workforce is not only within the Nets’ fingers. He has a participant possibility for subsequent season price $36.5 million and can be eligible for an extension price $200 million over 5 years. Ought to he decline his participant possibility, he would turn out to be an unrestricted free agent.
He confirmed his dynamism on the courtroom in a number of video games this season, scoring 50 factors towards the Charlotte Hornets in March after which 60 per week later towards the Orlando Magic.
However what use is that explosiveness if he isn’t taking part in?
“I believe there’s been far an excessive amount of debate, dialogue, scuttlebutt — no matter you wish to name it — about distractions, and about issues that basically are outdoors of basketball,” Marks mentioned. “Whereas we’d wish to give attention to doing a few of the issues that acquired us right here within the first place.”
Marks made that remark in his opening remarks throughout Wednesday’s information convention, earlier than anybody had requested him about Irving.
It match, although, with the message he gave the impression to be sending all through his information convention. It was a message to Irving about committing in an actual manner, not simply contractually, to a workforce that might have used extra of him this season.