Things in the NBA happen in the blink of an eye. Just last week, the Brooklyn Nets (31-20) seemed to be maintaining their positive trajectory even in the face of several trying losses in the wake of Kevin Durant’s MCL injury.
At the forefront of that was one Kyrie Irving, embracing a role of leadership after an offseason (and first roughly 90 days of the regular season) rife with distraction.
Well, that all changed with Irving demanding a trade, per Shams Charania of The Athletic.
After Irving shared videos of controversial pundits Jordan Petersen and Jason Whitlock on his Instagram on Thursday, things quickly devolved over the next few hours for a Nets team that battled back from a slow start to become one of the premier threats in the Eastern Conference and now finds itself right back at square one all the while, Irving remains cryptic on Twitter.
Kyrie Irving Tweets After Trade Deman
“To my Peers: JUST BE YOURSelf and GROW, “ Irving tweeted in the aftermath of his request. “Keep people around who CELEBRATE YOU unconditionally and appreciates all of the hard work that gets put in. Distance yourself from the folks who manipulate, hate, and hurt.”
Irving signed off on the tweet with his customary “Hela”, his Lakota name.
There had been a concerted effort from Irving to push past all the outside influences and be dedicated to the team. He even took a shot at former teammate James Harden (now of the Philadelphia 76ers) saying things would be different this time with Durant out because he was no longer hampered by things like his stance on the COVID vaccine.
He also found himself in hot water earlier this year after sharing a video deemed anti-semitic leading to an eight-game suspension after a summer-long contract standoff with management.
“Just getting out of my own way and really thinking team-first and putting my body on the line and then leading by example,” Irving said in a walk-off interview after the Nets’ 117-106 win over the Utah Jazz on January 20. “Every night I try to put myself in that place, in that zone. Specifically in the fourth quarter when it’s winning time. But I just think, the way we started off the game, it really made a difference tonight. And then, the way we finished, I really felt like we grew as a squad.”
Irving’s latest message paints a picture of someone feeling only partially accepted by the Nets.
His agent, Shetella Irving, recently sent a text message to Bleacher Report NBA insider Chris Haynes professing her client’s desire to make Brooklyn his long-term home. The Nets did offer Irving a new deal in the last week, per Charania.
Charanis adds that the deal included stipulations over the guarantees in the final year of the contract while Irving’s side believes a “player of his caliber” should not have to deal with that.
“League sources with direct knowledge of the negotiations who have been granted anonymity so that they could speak freely say that the extension offer was not well received,” writes Charania before revealing that “there have been significant differences that have emerged between the Nets and Irving.”
Haynes adds that the stipulation involved winning at a high level at which point Irving’s camp discontinued talks.
What Comes Next for Kyrie Irving, Nets?
This naturally opens up the floodgates to a slew of other questions for Nets general manager Sean Marks who is also under some bit of uncertainty. Will the Nets be able to cobble together a deal they feel comfortable with ahead of the February 9 trade deadline?
“Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving has not shared a list of preferred teams,” tweeted out ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski adding that the often-times aloof seven-time All-Star “has maintained an interest in the Lakers. LA is expected to be among the teams that’ll explore a possible trade with the Nets.”
Do they even really have the luxury of being picky?
That was part of their logic behind not bowing to Irving’s contractual wants in the first place believing that he would need their help to get to any preferred destination next summer. But the turmoil around Irving at least played a significant part in Durant’s trade request over this past offseason and could be a driving factor behind the next request from the injured superstar.