Three games into his return from a two-month injury, Kyrie Irving thinks the Nets need more talent. Following an 11-point loss to the Sixers, Irving was asked what his team needs to do to reach championship-level contention, and he feels the Nets are “one or two pieces” away. Even with Kevin Durant.
”Collectively, I feel like we have great pieces,” Irving said, “but it’s pretty glaring we need one more piece or two more pieces that will complement myself, KD [Kevin Durant], DJ [DeAndre Jordan], GT [Garrett Temple], Spence [Dinwiddie], Caris [LeVert], and we’ll see how that evolves.”
Irving did preface with compliments for his teammates, saying “We have complementary young guys as well that have done a great job the last three years.” But those young players were noticeably absent from the list of vets Irving clearly sees as the key pieces for next year’s title run. Could Irving follow LeBron James’ footsteps in coercing his team to deal prospects for vets?
Let’s talk about what this all means.
Why does Irving feel this team isn’t enough as is?
The biggest question here is why Irving thinks his team is insufficient as is. A big two of KD and Irving is probably enough to crack the top 3 or 4 with merely league-average surrounding talent in a shallow Eastern Conference. Despite having better than league-average talent, Irving still doesn’t think that’s enough.
This would be a ludicrous statement even before the season started, but it’s even more so in January given Irving’s injury circumstances. How could he possibly know how good this team really is?
This Nets season has been even messier than expected. Irving’s hardly been around. We knew Kevin Durant would miss the entire season as he recovers from a torn Achilles. In the interim, the Nets were supposed to enjoy a run to the playoffs as the team studied how the rest of the core fits around its next-best star. But Irving’s missed 26 straight games to a shoulder injury. He’s only played in 14 games. That’s not nearly a big enough sample size to assess what Brooklyn has.
If we’re breaking down the numbers (which are again, small samples), the Nets have been slightly better without Irving anyway. In 14 games with him, they’re 5-9, being outscored by two points per 100 possessions, per StatMuse. Without him, they’re 13-13, being outscored by 1.6 points per 100 possessions.
It’s hard to put blanket statements over this Brooklyn Nets team because we’ve hardly seen the bulk of their roster play with their second-best player. And more importantly, we haven’t seen them play at all with a generational superstar.
Kevin Durant changes the equation to a degree we can’t currently predict.
This quote won’t sit well with teammates
The NBA is at a point where superstars have maximized their power. Any young player in the Nets locker room has seen what Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and now Kyle Kuzma went through in L.A. The Lakers had no problem dangling their top prospects for superstars, and James had influence. Now any Net must think Kyrie could have him gone next.
That’s a crap feeling regardless, but it hurts more coming from a player who’s only worn a Nets jersey 14 times ever. Especially since Irving’s recent track record with teammates is hardly stellar.
Could this blow over?
Sure. Irving talks often, and maybe this gets all cleared up behind the scenes, and everyone moves on with their day. Or maybe this is the start of something bigger all over again.
Irving has a similarly bizarre string of quotes the next day:
Kyrie Irving with STRONG words at practice:— SNY (@SNYtv) January 17, 2020
"It's not like I'm an ass---- yelling at everybody in the freaking locker room all the time ... If it's harsh as a leader or it's too much for anybody, you're not in our locker room—stay the f--- out." pic.twitter.com/peVcXQgsun
Playing in a new city is Irving’s chance to reinvent his leadership image. This was not a great start.