To much surprise, it was reported last Monday that there was an increased sense of optimism among the Brooklyn Nets that Kyrie Irving would return to play during the 2021-22 season. It wasn’t clear if Irving would cave and receive the COVID-19 vaccine or if Brooklyn would ease up on its restriction and allow him to be a part-time player.
Sean Marks released a statement on Oct. 12 explicitly stating that Irving wouldn’t be allowed to return to the team “until he is eligible to be a full participant.” On Friday, it was confirmed that Irving had indeed begun the process of re-joining the Nets because the organization had decided to allow for him to be a part-time player.
That lasted for a whole two months. So what caused Marks to change his mind? Was it because Kevin Durant and James Harden are among the NBA’s leaders in minutes played per game? Or was it because a number of the team’s players had entered the health and safety protocols?
Or … did Durant’s or Harden’s agent speak with the team about bringing Irving back and apply the pressure?
What led to the Brooklyn Nets changing their mind about Kyrie Irving?
Here’s the latest from NetsDaily, which is reporting some inside information regarding the situation:
"“Those discussions [with one of Durant’s or Harden’s agents] were somewhat contentious, added a source. Some within the Nets organization believed Marks left the meeting feeling as if his hand had been forced, he said. Although Durant has signed an extension, Harden (and Irving) have player options in the summer.“A Nets spokesman, however, firmly denies any such meeting took place.“Then, shortly thereafter, news broke via Shams Charania that there was ‘sudden optimism’ within the Nets organization that Kyrie Irving’s return could be on the horizon.”"
Brooklyn isn’t even halfway through the regular season, and KD’s workload has been a main topic of conversation. He’s averaging a league-high 29.7 points per game and 37 minutes per game, good for second in the NBA.
Initially, earlier in the season, Nash said that the Nets didn’t have an option but to play Durant, or they’d lose games. He backtracked on that statement last week and said that “it didn’t feel right” for the team to lean on KD the way that they had been.
Additionally, Harden’s struggles haven’t helped much. He’s averaging 20.8 points per game, the lowest for him since 2011-12, and 36.2 minutes. He hasn’t been consistent at all, making the Nets’ offensive issues more evident.
The goal is for KD and Harden to be healthy by the time that the playoffs roll around in mid-April, and Irving playing in road games would help alleviate some of their stress. Whether Marks’ hand was forced or not, it was always hard to envision Irving not playing a single minute for the Nets this year. Though the timing couldn’t have been worse with the team’s COVID scare, we’re possibly about to see the preseason title favorites at full strength.
And it could’ve been all because the agents of Durant and/or Harden wanted to protect their client’s best interests.