BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)
Kyrie Irving insulted everyone’s intelligence by talking about the Nets having gone through so much this season with the fluctuation of the roster. For him to even say this, it’s quite some hubris on his part. He said that after the Nets’ 126-120 loss to the Boston Celtics on Sunday at TD Garden.
If it was not sad, it would be amusing. Or vice versa.
Irving created those problems by refusing to be vaccinated. New York City does not let its own athletes play in a public facility without being vaccinated. If he got vaccinated, the Nets would not be in a position they are in now by likely playing in a play-in game or maybe missing the playoffs. If he did what he was supposed to do, James Harden wouldn’t orchestrate his departure to the Philadelphia 76ers.
By being a part-time player, he not only could cost the Nets a championship or a playoff spot, but he could cause his head coach Steve Nash to be fired.
When Irving scored season-high 50 points to lead the Nets to a 132-121 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday night, it makes Nash and his teammates wonder what could have been this season. For one thing, Harden would have stayed and that would have made the Nets the odds-on favorite to win it all. Second of all, the Nets would have been the No. 1 overall seed this season. Finally, we could have enjoyed his talent rather than talking about his vaccination status.
He has the right not to be vaccinated, but this was not ideal for him and the Nets. The rule stinks, but that’s just the way it is. He should have done the right thing to be vaccinated for the good of the team. Championships are precious, and opportunities of getting one are hard to get as the Knicks can say.
Every year of not winning a championship makes it this much harder for the Nets. Kevin Durant is not going to get any younger. Just look at this year with Harden’s departure. Instead of increasing their championships of winning with the Big 3, it comes down to winning with the duo on the road and Durant winning by himself at home. Hard to count on Ben Simmons to do anything because he can’t shoot, and he hasn’t played at all this season. In fact, who knows if he even going to play this season?
The Nets publicly support him. Deep down, most of them have to be fuming privately at his decision to put his interest over his team’s interest. Harden was the only one publicly who called the part-time point guard out because he did not want to see his opportunity of championship going away, which explains why he orchestrated his trade to Philadelphia.
It’s been surprising Durant said nothing publicly or behind the scenes. He left Irving alone all season long. Of all people whose championships rely on Irving, it’s him since his legacy of being a champion is discussed. Remember he left the Golden State Warriors since he wanted to win on his own after being criticized for winning a championship on Steph Curry’s and Klay Thompson’s coattails.
Durant will get the blame if the Nets don’t win a championship this year because he didn’t get on Irving enough about being vaccinated. It’s not fair, but that’s just the way it is in pro sports. We need to find someone to blame when things don’t go according to plan.
Oh, Irving will also get the blame because his part-time status hurt the Nets’ continuity and flow on offense. It’s hard to be consistent when a player only plays on the road and sits out at home, and it’s going to have an effect come playoff time. This is why it’s hard to bet on the Nets to win a championship this season, especially against a healthy 76ers team with the trio of Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey and Harden.
The Nets and Irving are banking on Mayor Eric Adams to give an exemption when the playoffs start. Here’s the problem with this thinking: If he does, then he will have to answer to city workers who got fired because they did not get vaccinated. It would raise a pandora’s box. The mayor understandably does not want to deal with that aspect.
It’s a mess that hasn’t gone away and won’t go away.
Irving has five games left with the Nets. Now they can get by without him since Durant is back, and he can win a game by himself. But come playoff time, this is not going to be ideal.
He can blame Harden all he wants, but who’s he kidding? He knows why this season has been hard for the Nets. He shouldn’t insult anyone’s intelligence.
With him being a free agent this offseason, it’s time for the Nets to make a stand once in for all. Either he gets jabbed to get his deal or he takes his nonsense elsewhere.