The Kyrie Irving saga in Brooklyn has taken another turn, and this time things are looking bleaker. According to Brian Lewis of the New York Post, Nets head coach Steve Nash has said that he doesn’t expect Irving to be taking part in any home games this season.
This latest revelation has serious implications for a team that is in a win-now mode. When they acquired James Harden last year, adding him to Irving and Kevin Durant, Brooklyn created a formidable group – quite possibly the greatest offensive triumvirate that the league will ever see.
The problem that the Nets have had is that said trio has barely seen any court time together. A mix of injuries to at least one of the three, plus Irving taking time off from the team, led to a grand total of eight regular season appearances together. In those limited appearances, they certainly were a beast to deal with, averaging 64 points, 23.8 rebounds, 15.5 assists, 3.3 steals and 3.8 blocks while only turning the ball over 7.6 times. Their shooting splits as a group were 51.9/39.61/79.8.
In the playoffs, they saw only six games together, and in an average of 21.7 minutes on the court produced 61.8 points, 18.2 rebounds, 12.2 assists, 3.7 steals and 3.0 blocks while turning the ball over 5.3 times. Their shooting was even better in the playoffs with splits of 55.4/46.2/89.1.
There is no doubt that the talented trio can go toe-to-toe with the best of them. Hell, a motivated Durant plus a Harden playing at less than half of his true capability due to injury almost beat the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks. Irving got injured early in that series, forcing Harden to come back early.
The problem now is that we’re going to get even less of a chance to see the trio play together. If Irving’s status does not change, then he can play in a maximum of 41 regular season games, and he won’t be available for any pivotal home games during the postseason. He can still practice with the team, but missing 41 games is a huge deal.
Irving also won’t be paid for any of those missed home games, which is something that may have motivated Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins to get vaccinated.
This latest development throws the Nets’ plans into disarray, especially after they re-upped in the offseason and added veteran role players that could complement their Big Three. They signed Patty Mills and Paul Millsap, plus brought back Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge, the latter of whom was forced to retire mid-season after an issue with his heart.
Harden, on his part, has shared that he wants Irving on the team, but hasn’t spoken to him. This could also be a cause of discord, because there’s no doubt that the presence of both Irving AND Durant was a motivator in Harden wanting to get traded to Brooklyn.
Durant, who’s also one of Irving’s best friends, has been supportive, but you have to wonder how far his patience will stretch when Irving starts to become a hindrance toward Durant winning another title. Take it with a pinch of salt, as Stephen A. Smith often likes to ruffle feathers, but he’s recently said that Durant may give the Nets the OK to ship Irving. The problem with that scenario is the rumors that Irving might just retire if he gets traded, tanking his trade value.
Harden has a player option for the next year of his contract, which means that he has the option of taking his talents elsewhere if he feels that the Nets are too unstable. That’s another situation that Brooklyn will want to avoid. Remember, he turned down over $100 million from Houston to force his way out, and he could do the same to the Nets.
With Irving on the court, the Nets are the odds-on favorite to win the NBA title this year. Without him, that isn’t quite as sure. It’s going to be an interesting time following the Nets this season. If the Nets find a way to succeed without Irving for the majority of the regular season, and they still have the talent to win a ring without him, things will be even dicier for the mercurial point guard.
Irving’s impact on the basketball court is undeniable, but whether or not the Nets find it worth dealing with him could be another story. We’ll have to see what transpires over the next few weeks.