There are many that question how Brooklyn Nets’ superstar, Kyrie Irving, will lead this team after previous failed ventures. He has a chance to rewrite the narrative placed on him, but he won’t have to do it alone.
Look, we all know how the 2018/19 season transpired for the Celtics. There were those, like Bill Simmons for instance, that looked at the roster on paper and given the level of success they had the year prior thought they would contend for a title; they didn’t. The blame was quickly placed primarily on the shoulders of one individual, Kyrie Irving. The Brooklyn Nets share some similarities with that Celtics squad, so will history repeat itself?
The narrative is set for the 27-year-old, be it fair or not; he’s classified by many amongst the NBA spectrum as disruptive in a team’s locker room. The way Irving conducted himself may have been part of the problem, sure, but his antics weren’t the only things that proved detrimental to that roster.
"This group was the most dysfunctional team I’ve seen since 1983, when we had four Hall of Famers on our roster and got swept by the Milwaukee Bucks. These guys never found a way to be on the same page.”"
In that same article, MacMullan expressed Irving’s desire to bring a 14-or 15-year veteran to the roster to provide stability. Irving often tested the boundaries when it came to his aggressive leadership approach, and there wasn’t anyone in the locker room that could act as a mediator or challenge his near-totalitarian attitude at times.
"and Al Horford, the model of decorum and professionalism, choosing not to challenge Irving when the point guard’s emotions disrupted the team."
Irving had reason to be upset with certain members of the Celtics’ young core, MacMullan goes on to share a story about a road game against the Miami Heat—the second game of a back-to-back.
"On Jan. 9, the Celtics blitzed the Indiana Pacers in Boston, then flew out that night to Miami, arriving at the team hotel after 2 a.m. on Thursday. Boston was set to play the Miami Heat that night, but, team sources said, that didn’t stop some of the young players from heading to South Beach, where the clubs stay open well past 5 a.m. It’s not uncommon for NBA players to go out when they’re on the road, but Irving was irked teammates decided to do it in the middle of back-to-back games."
Did Irving express his concerns the right way? Probably not. But is there more to the story than meets the eye? There usually is.
He now gets a fresh start in Brooklyn, a city he wanted to be in due to his childhood roots; this is the first organization that Kyrie Irving had the privilege of actually choosing. This article isn’t a shot at Danny Ainge, Brad Stevens, the Celtics young core or the organization as a whole—but Irving just didn’t fit there, and that can happen with professional athletes in any sport. It’s not the fault of the Boston Celtics, but now both parties have the opportunity to move on with fresh starts.
The Brooklyn Nets have established a culture that is player-friendly and was part of the reason that Irving and Kevin Durant selected the organization in free agency. The team has a selfless playstyle, they’ll do what it takes to ensure the maximum level of success, and as a student of the game, Irving will appreciate and respect that.
Issues aren’t likely to arise with players wanting the ball more or wanting more looks within the offense. Something Irving did have to contend with in Boston, especially in his second year there.
He has his fair share of veterans to look to for assistance when it comes to gut-check conversations after a multiple game skid; Garrett Temple has seen a little bit of everything as a journeyman in the NBA during his 9-year career, Wilson Chandler has been in the league 11 years and so has DeAndre Jordan. Then he has his good friend, Kevin Durant, who’s achieved just about everything you can in an NBA career to consult with.
Irving has grown a friendship with Spencer Dinwiddie, who flourishes in his role as the team’s sixth man and acted as a recruiter to get the x6 NBA All-Star to come to Brooklyn. He’s begun to build a rapport with Caris LeVert, who in all likelihood will act as the team’s secondary option with Durant out for the season.
Then there’s Joe Harris, who spent time with Irving back in his early playing days in Cleveland and seemingly enjoyed the time spent. According to Brian Lewis of the nypost.com, Harris had nothing but great things to say about his former teammate:
"“I’d say you could ask a lot of people that played with him and they’d all say that he’s a great teammate and a good guy to be around.”"
Irving has a nice combination of complementary pieces and veterans who can challenge him in the locker room if ever need be, he’s in a place he wants to be and considers home—an aspect you can’t overlook just from a human psychology standpoint.
He’s been given a chance to rewrite the narrative given to him, but he won’t be alone in doing so.