The NBA world appeared exciting on June 6th, when the league’s board of governors announced that they have reached an official agreement on the NBA’s return. The arrangements and play-in format, among others, were set, as well as a target date: July 31st.
A mere week later, though, one news popped up that rattled everything. With fans and media busy previewing the eight-game regular season and the ensuing playoffs, Kyrie Irving and a group of players basically said, “Not so fast.”
Irving is reportedly leading a coalition of NBA players that are opposed on the restart plan, and that they were discussing it aggressively on an exclusive conference all. He and others, which was soon revealed to include the Los Angeles Lakers’ Dwight Howard and Avery Bradley, and the Portland Trail Blazers’ Carmelo Anthony, whose teams are slated to be in the upcoming return, expressed that resuming the season will distract the country from resolving the ongoing social issues in America.
Given that it’s a sensitive topic, all hell broke loose as fans, players, and media personalities took differing sides. We know you’re buckled up by now, but tighten it up, folks. The ride will be even bumpier in the next few days. Things are getting crazier by the minute that this now looks like a full-blown saga.
Howard even went on CNN to elaborate his take:
Dwight Howard on CNN pic.twitter.com/aEweTZh0cy— pickuphoop (@pickuphoop) June 16, 2020
“I would love nothing more than to win my very first NBA championship … But the unity of my people would be an even bigger championship, that’s just too beautiful to pass up. What better time than now for us to be focusing on our families?”
Bradley, meanwhile, pointed out the overall value and responsibility of the league and its players in such social issues:
“The actual act of sitting out doesn’t directly fight systemic racism … But it does highlight the reality that without black athletes, the NBA wouldn’t be what it is today. The league has a responsibility to our communities in helping to empower us — just as we have made the NBA brand strong.”
As the back-and-forth continued to heat up, it was then reported that Irving has told the coalition to not only “boycott” the season, but also start their own league. Irving’s camp, however, was quick to deny the rumor.
Sources tell me that Kyrie Irving never stated that the Nets should begin their own league in response to the bubble.— Taylor Rooks (@TaylorRooks) June 17, 2020
I'm told that after that report came out, he left the group chat.
Adding to this — when the initial report came out, several players like Caris Levert and Theo Pinson commented on social media that it wasn't true. https://t.co/vYkDPrBna6— Taylor Rooks (@TaylorRooks) June 17, 2020
While it was indeed ‘fake news,’ many are not letting Irving off the hook on the entire hoopla, most notably retired NBA veteran turned analyst Kendrick Perkins. He has gone after Irving right from the get-go, and he is not holding anything back.
After claiming that Irving is “causing unnecessary drama,” Perkins again lashed out on the Nets star in a recent ESPN appearance.
“If you take Kyrie Irving’s brain and put it in a bird right now, guess what that bird is going to do? It’s going to fly backwards. Because Kyrie right now, he’s confused … He’s showing his lack of leadership.”
While Perk admitted that he acknowledges Irving’s stand, he questioned the ultimate plan, or lack thereof.
“I’m okay with [Kyrie Irving] changing his mind and having a different way of thinking and saying ‘You know what? We need to make a stand and sit out.’ But what is the plan after that? He didn’t have one.”
That’s just the tip of the iceberg too. Perkins proceeded to go deeper in his shots on Irving, like really, really deep:
“Guess what’s going on in the last two days: two people have been lynched in the state of Texas, a young African-American lady was killed in Akron, Ohio behind a hate crime, and had that been highlighted like it should be? No, because for the last two days, we have been talking about Kyrie Irving. So, right now Kyrie Irving, you are the distraction.”
It was a big hit on the part of Perkins, so two more teammates came out to support their point guard. Kevin Durant, who’s had had on again, off again beef with Perkins for months now, first fired back on Instagram:
He then went to Twitter to re-tweet a Perkins lowlight:
It’s all good Perk! Real NBA fans know you were one of the most lethal hoppers back in the day pic.twitter.com/8Pbdw5Am8H— Dr. Guru (@DrGuru23) June 17, 2020
Ex players turning into suckers right before your eyes on television.— Wilson Chandler (@wilsonchandler) June 17, 2020
Divide and conquer tactics at a all time high.— Wilson Chandler (@wilsonchandler) June 17, 2020
While Perkins’s response to Durant is still on its way, he revealed to Heavy.com’s Brandon ‘Scoop’ Jackson that the potential beef with Chandler has already been squashed, all courtesy of a phone call:
“Wilson Chandler said something towards my way on Twitter. I didn’t get into a Twitter beef with him. What it did was I DM’d him, and I gave him my telephone number. And I told him, ‘Ay man, we talk this out like real men.’
“He called me … and guess what? I understood where he was coming from, he understood where I was coming from and we hung up the conversation in good grace. Straight up, just like that.”
The words that have been thrown around are not easy to take back, especially when it’s between grown, alpha, and ego-driven men. Hopefully, though, Perk and Chandler’s exchange show that a simple phone call and a small enough pride that can listen to a different viewpoint can prevent such misunderstandings from escalating.
Nevertheless, we’ll have to wait and see again if the soap opera will continue or if everyone will revert back to their competitive selves and prepare for a championship push.
The NBA has already released a detailed protocol for the July return, which includes accommodations, amenities, and strict testing plans. It also indicated that players have until June 24th to inform their respective teams about their participation in the NBA’s return-to-play plan.