We are now over one week removed from the Brooklyn Nets, being eliminated by the Boston Celtics from the first round of the NBA Playoffs. The Nets really struggled to finish games throughout the series, and that ultimately ended up in the Nets being swept. A lot has been said and written regarding the season-ending, Steve Nash’s future in Brooklyn, the drama surrounding Ben Simmons, and more.
One of the intriguing takes that was shared recently was from NBA insider Tom Haberstroh, who also backed the concern with statistics. The question that Haberstroh raises on the April 27 episode of the Basketball Illuminati podcast is about Kyrie Irving and his desire to win.
Kyrie Irving, Field Goal Percentage Savings Club Member
Haberstroh referenced a sequence at the end of the first half of game four against the Celtics, when Irving first made a mistake defensively as the half winded down, leading to a wide-open three for his assignment Grant Williams. Irving followed that lapse in defense up with an error offensively. After the made Grant Williams three, Kyrie got the ball with 1.4 seconds on the clock with the Nets down 8 points. However, Irving elected to dribble the ball out with that time rather than take a shot to go into half down 5. Why? To preserve his field goal percentage.
This led Haberstroh to look deeper into statistics behind the Nets point guard protecting his field goal percentage. “Kyrie Irving, is this an anomaly, Kyrie Irving, does he protect his field goal percentage over his teams chance at winning? Is he all about winning,” said Haberstroh. “Because I think it’s weird to say, but launching these last-second heaves is to me a proxy of how much do you want to win basketball games.”
Haberstroh looked into the last five seasons for Kyrie Irving and how many times he has launched a half court heave. His discovery, the Irving in the last five seasons, has only shot a league-low 2 half court heaves. In 230 games, he has only taken two heaves. “He has the ball in his hands almost all of the time in these situations, and he just does not do it. And I think that is kind of selfish.” Haberstroh said.
Nets Stars Questioned
This isn’t the first time that the stars of the Nets have been questioned about their desire to win. In 2021, NetsDaily covered concerns raised around Irving and Kevin Durant’s emphasis on winning games. They referenced a quote from Durant that caused eyebrows to raise.
“Once I won a championship, I realized that, like, my view on this game is really about development,” Durant said in an interview with Rachel Nichols back in April. “Like, how good can I be? It’s not about, you know, let’s go get this championship. I appreciate that stuff and I want to win to experience that stuff, but it’s not the end-all, be-all of why I play the game.”
Those concerns were quickly addressed by head coach Steve Nash in an interview of his own.
“When those guys come in the building every day, they work as hard and are as focused as anybody in the business,” Nash said. “So whatever their perspectives are are theirs and are warranted, and frankly, much of the time it’s healthy.”
Nash, who is known to be a players coach and understanding the situations the Nets stars are in more than most contiued:
“There is a lot more to life than winning championships,” Nash said. “That doesn’t mean that Kevin Durant doesn’t work as hard and tirelessly and prepare as much as anyone else in the game. Kyrie having thoughts about the world and the inequalities throughout it I think is really important and admirable. When he comes in, he does his work every day.”
How much the Nets prioritize winning championships and the role their stars play in that pursuit is up for interpretation. However, these points and statistics to back them up are interesting.