Following Brooklyn’s loss to the 76ers, Kyrie Irving made some remarks about the team. Here’s how he’s both right and wrong at the same time.
There’s no need to mince words. So far, the 2019-20 campaign for the Brooklyn Nets has been a disappointing one for fans. The team has suffered through injuries to key players and inconsistent play from the healthy ones. If not for the heroic efforts of Spencer Dinwiddie, who knows where this team would be right now.
You’d think the return of both Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert to the lineup would help steady things and bring some positivity to the Nets who’d just come off a tough losing streak. It certainly did at first. But then, it didn’t.
When a team wins, everyone is happy. When a team loses, people like to overreact. It’s just how it goes in sports.
When Kyrie returned, the Nets were fresh off of an arduous seven-game losing streak. The whole “Nets are better without Kyrie” narrative, which fans spun when Brooklyn was beating bottom-feeder teams, quickly disappeared. It then became “Kyrie is just going to sit out the year.” Weird how when the team was winning that was never even discussed. But I digress.
After Irving’s great performance in his first game back, albeit against one of the worst teams in the league in the Atlanta Hawks, the thought was that Irving was going to resurrect the Nets and begin the push to rise in the standings. Well, two games later, a completely different narrative is starting to arise, one that Nets fans had feared and Celtics/Knicks fans hoped would happen.
On Wednesday night, the Nets took on their divisional rival-Philadelphia 76ers. It was the second half of a back-to-back in which the Nets had lost the front end of to the scorching hot Jazz. Apparently, Rudy Gobert had a “quadruple-double” that game, but that’s a discussion for another day.
For the better part of the Philly matchup, the Nets possessed the lead. Regardless, a fourth-quarter collapse, something we’ve seen too many times this season, was what inevitably caused the team to end up on the losing end.
In the loss, Irving put up 14 points on 6-of-21 shooting from the field. Overall, it was his worst performance of the year. The loss was bad enough, but afterward is when the flood gates opened.
After the game, Kyrie expressed his opinion on the state of the team and where they stand. The veteran ultimately portrayed his concerns about the roster, calling it “glaring” that the team needs more pieces to reach the next level.
Later in his comments, Irving says, “We’re going to do the best with the guys that we have in our locker room now, and we’ll worry about all the other stuff, in terms of moving pieces and everything else, as an organization down the line in the summer.”
Irving concluded his statement by saying, “Collectively, I feel like we have great pieces, but it’s pretty glaring we need one or more pieces or two more pieces that will compliment myself, [Kevin Durant], [DeAndre Jordan], [Garrett Temple], [Spencer Dinwiddie], [Caris LeVert], and we’ll see how that evolves.”
Kyrie Irving was asked after tonight’s loss to Philly about this game against a top East opponent showing how much work the Nets still have to do in order to compete at the highest level while waiting for Kevin Durant to return. Here’s Irving’s answer: pic.twitter.com/NAqA4OvQk2
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) January 16, 2020
Why Kyrie is Right
Now, deep breath. Irving is right and wrong at the same time. First, let’s discuss the former.
Kyrie is right in the fact that this team is a few more pieces away from the next level. It’s obvious to anyone that watches every single game this team plays. If you look at the ever-growing “Nets Twitter,” you’ll find dozens of tweets from people, win or lose, calling for trades of certain players on the roster and claims that some guys haven’t developed as anticipated.
Outside of the Nets core, inconsistent players litter this team. Although Kyrie mentioned Garrett Temple, the 33-year-old hasn’t been consistent for the team so far this season outside of a stretch of good games in December. Offseason acquisition Taurean Prince has also been subpar for Brooklyn. Rodions Kurucs, who showed great promise last season, hasn’t played up to expectations. Dzanan Musa and Theo Pinson, although thrust into bigger roles due to the injuries, hasn’t looked great to say lightly. The Nets also lost their best defender in David Nwaba to a torn ACL back in December.
Not to mention, the team cut Iman Shumpert and hasn’t brought him back for some reason. Wilson Chandler has come back from his 25-game suspension but still looks to be returning to a rhythm.
In that last paragraph were six (excluding Shumpert and Nwaba since they were cut) that are on the current roster that, with all due respect, aren’t guaranteed to be back with the team next season. Heck, there are no guarantees they’ll make it through the trade deadline.
We knew heading into this season that it would be a tryout essentially for the non-core pieces to see who would be back next year for when Kevin Durant returns. Thus far, like Kyrie said, it’s glaring that the roster needs some more pieces to contend for a championship. It’s just the harsh truth.
Why Kyrie is Wrong
Even though some truths are hard to swallow, there are ways to go about it…and that’s where Kyrie was in the wrong.
During media day, Kyrie voiced how he wishes to be a leader on this team and to help his teammates grow alongside him. Well, calling for the organization to make moves after a loss in which you had your worst performance of the season isn’t exactly what you’d call great leadership. Even if Kyrie had dropped 40, it wouldn’t exactly change the perception of the message.
It’s one thing to call out the play of your teammates in private. Nonetheless, don’t do it to the media a few minutes after blowing a 4th quarter lead in which the opponent outscored you 31-16. These are comments that should’ve been made privately to general manager Sean Marks or head coach Kenny Atkinson.
Or, Kyrie could challenge his teammates in practice. Saying, “we need to play better as a team if we want to reach that next level” plays a lot better than saying, “it’s glaring that the team needs more pieces and we’ll worry about moving pieces in the summer.”
Now, do we know what the chemistry and vibes are like in that locker room? No. But you leave the door wide open for criticism on team chemistry with comments like that. Not very leader-like, to say the least.
Now, both are favorites amongst the fan base. Harris even has his own sub-cult within Nets Twitter. It’s true Harris hasn’t been his usually consistent “Joey Buckets” self recently and Allen hasn’t made the big leap many fans were hoping he’d take. Nevertheless, the organization highly regards both individuals. Harris especially for how much of a success story he’s been to the Nets developmental staff.
Also, it’s worth noting that Harris and Kyrie are friends dating back to their time together in Cleveland. Irving leaving their names out doesn’t seem intentional. But then again, I’m not in the mind of a one Kyrie Irving.
After 40 games, the Nets are 18-22 and sit in the 7th spot in the Eastern Conference. With Irving out, we saw the Nets thrive and also falter. Brooklyn needs Irving just like they need their role players to fill their roles. As rotations start returning to normal, the Nets should be able to find their groove not just on the offensive, but defensive end as well.
It’s possible to agree with what Kyrie said and disagree with how he came across. And he’s right; this is not a championship roster by any means even with KD. But that doesn’t mean he has to say it for the world to hear. Leave that for the talking heads on TV and Twitter.