Former Nets Star Kyrie Irving Pushes Back on Unflattering Narrative

Brooklyn Nets

Getty Kyrie Irving #11 of the Dallas Mavericks.

If you thought all the fallout from the Brooklyn Nets trading Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving was all sifted through, think again.

The further we get from the short-lived super duo the more that is revealed about just how dysfunctional things were between the stars and those entrusted to run the team which, at one point seemed it might include those stars.

“When I actually said that quote, we had a conversation,” said Irving via the House of Highlights YouTube channel referring to his end-of-season press conference after Brooklyn’s sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs. “I was just telling them that I would just love to have more of a shared responsibility if we’re going to be building a future here. They gave me all the right answers – ‘yes, yes, yes’. The moment it comes out in the media, it’s like, ‘Who does this guy think he is? He’s going to be in the front office?’”

Irving’s comments, taken at face value, ran counter to all of the things he had shown.

The 2022 season was marred by his COVID vaccine-related absences which contributed to James Harden’s trade request.

“I don’t plan on going anywhere,” Irving said via the team’s official YouTube channel after that series. “This is added motivation for our franchise to be at the top of the league the next few years. When I say I’m here with Kev, I think that really entails us managing this franchise together alongside [owner Joe Tsai] and [general manager Sean Marks], and our group of family members that we have in our organization.”

Those words were met with plenty of side-eyes.

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“That’s not the angle I came from,” Irving clarified on Saturday. “Just wanted to bring in some great guys. I know cohesion, I know about winning games. But in this next phase of my career, it’s about leading and also following with the right guys around me.”

To Irving’s point, he also publicly expressed a willingness via his agent Shetellia Riley-Irving to be in Brooklyn long-term just ahead of his trade request. Talks on an extension broke down over language tying guaranteed money to team success. Irving expressed his gratefulness for his time in Brooklyn saying the same for his time with the Boston Celtics.

But he is still seeking that leadership role in his new surroundings.

“I know they want me for my work ethic, for my leadership abilities, and also my consistency in what I bring to the team,” Irving said. “And I would just like to show that every day, that’s it. So judge me off those actions rather than what I’m talking about with management and what it kind of looks [like] from the outside. Most of the things that you guys hear about is just not true that goes on behind the scenes. Or it’s 100% true and it doesn’t get reported. So, I think I got to find a balance of just knowing that some things are going to be talked about and some things aren’t. But how I handle the team and how I handle myself and others is what I can control.”

Kevin Durant: Kyrie Irving Trade ‘Tough for me to Stomach”

Durant also expressed regret that things did not work out in his introductory press conference on the Suns’ YouTube channel.

“It was a blow to our team,” Durant said. “It just took away our identity. He’s a Hall-of-Fame player that can do everything on the court and we relied on that. So without him, we didn’t have a clear identity. So that was tough for me to stomach.”

Durant, Harden, and Irving played 17 games together.

Of the three, Harden’s time was essentially one season (80 games), though it spanned two. Durant made 129 of a possible 218 appearances – not including the 2019-20 campaign he missed recovering from a torn Achilles while Irving appeared in 143 out of a possible 298 games in his Nets tenure with his absences being a mix of injuries and self-induced events.

If there’s one thing that Nets fans can still agree with Durant on, it’s that the way things ended was tough to stomach.

The Nets Have Moved On

Durant said that he believes trade requests such as his and Irving’s are good for the league and, given how the Nets made out, it is difficult to call them “losers” even if they did trade away the best player in the deal.

They did get highly-coveted swingman Mikal Bridges in the deal along with Cameron Johnson and a handful of draft picks and pick swaps.

They might not be viewed as the title contenders they were with Durant and Irving. But even Durant had to admit that there is a bright future in Brooklyn.

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