8th Jan 2021. NBA regular season Matchday 9. Brooklyn Nets face another strong candidate in the East, Philadelphia 76ers. The players are going through the motions. Wait, there is an absence on the floor. It’s their star player. No, not KD. He is under quarantine due to COVID. The other star, Kyrie Irving. Did anyone hear from him? “No” Okay, the coach calls and texts him. No reply, strange. Wait, the players have heard from him. He can’t make it due to personal reasons. Oh, okay, but shouldn’t he let the coach know about it first. Do you take a leave from your office and not tell your boss rather tell your coworkers? Okay, so he has left his coach dry and high but surely he can work it out. Isn’t this a frustrating scenario as a coach in your first season ever with such high expectations laid out by the fans and the world? But he isn’t the one letting the team down, it’s Kyrie Irving.
Well, Kyrie is truly a mystery one thinks they have figured out but every now and then they keep finding a new missing piece of this incomplete puzzle. He is a remarkable athlete. He has the greatest handles in the league to go along with the scoring proficiency. On his day, Kyrie just might leave you humiliated on the floor after having dribbled past you to score a reverse layup or break your ankles on a step-back three. Arguably the most skilled superstar of this era. Uncle Drew! Such great weaponry in your arsenal, yet you fire blank, something is not right. I can sit here and give you reasons why his addition to any team should solidify their position as a contender for the title but I also have reasons to why his team might just fall short.
Kyrie came to the NBA in 2011 as the first overall draft pick by Cleveland Cavaliers. Noticing any similarities here. 2003, LeBron James. Similar to the King, he joined a terrible squad in an Eastern Conference which struggled to get past LeBron those days. Not just for 1 year, but 8 straight years. Kyrie’s talent was noticeable right from the start with him winning Rookie of the Year. Another similarity here. But he could not mirror Bron in every aspect. The team failed to qualify for the playoffs every year till Bron finally returned home. Now one of the greatest accomplishments of Bron’s career in my opinion, even greater than 2011–12 championships is the 2007 Finals run. Once LeBron and Kyrie teamed up, they went to 3 straight finals and won in 2016 against the best regular-season team in the history, that too being down 3–1. Kyrie was phenomenal and so was LeBron. You would think Kyrie would be happy with this achievement but no, this guy thinks different.
Let me give you two options.
Option 1: Play with the best player in the world. Still be recognized as the second-best player in the team which appreciates and adores you for everything you do. Have a chance to win the trophy.
Option 2: You have a bit of ego and want to be “the man” and not the second fiddle. Go to another team and compete against the best players to win the trophy.
What sounds favourable to you? Option 1, right? Sure, if you are Jordan, Kobe, Shaq, go with option 2, because you are capable enough to win with that. But, you are Kyrie. He is an all-world talent but never dominated with Cavs unless LeBron came to the rescue. But still much respect for the decision to join the Celtics and be the alpha.
What no one understood or appreciated was the way he justified that decision. His television interview with the reasons to move out of Cavaliers was confusing. The fact that this move was on his radar before the 2017 NBA Finals didn’t sit well with so many folks. When you have one foot out the door, why would you focus all out on the team’s success? That’s like asking an employee to work his/her ass off during notice period. He didn’t want to be the second banana and wanted to be the primary ball-handler. Agreed, this will never happen as long as you have LeBron on the squad. That’s like Neymar asking Messi to make the calls or Pippen asking Jordan to just catch and shoot. They are the leaders of their team for a reason. One moment you claim you are happy with LeBron and want to compete for the title next year and the very next moment you are emptying your locker sneakily without telling your captain. If he so wanted to lead a team, he could have waited for LeBron to leave and then be the leader of Cavs. Regardless, Danny Ainge presented a great opportunity in the form of Celtics. But it just wasn’t a thoughtful move on Kyrie’s part no matter how much he says so.
I have always said that chemistry is the most important and underrated element for any team success. You can’t win with a disgruntled dressing room. And Kyrie did nothing to help the cause. The most successful franchise in the league expected to add a few more banners with the addition of championship experience to a young emerging squad. Kyrie was injured in the playoffs in the first season and to everyone’s surprise, the team still reached Game 7 of Eastern Conference Finals ultimately losing to Lebron’s Cleveland Cavaliers. Oooh, that must have hurt. Into the next season, Kyrie starts acting like that know-all individual who thought there’s an “i” in team. He talks to the media about how he called LeBron, apologized about his behaviour during his early Cavs years and how he learned to win a chip with Bron. How “these guys” should also now learn from him and that everything is not served in a plate and should be earned. Makes sense, just that you don’t do it in front of media rather show it on the court.
Actions speak louder than words. Kyrie somehow doesn’t get this concept. He remained vocal about the issues within the team, yet could not keep it under the covers and worked it out in the dressing room. The youngsters did not find themselves in the right position to succeed and failed to align with Kyrie’s leadership. Result: team’s winning record was better without Kyrie. Boston faced a tough matchup against the Greek Freak and the Bucks in the 2nd round of playoffs. Being down 3–1 in the series, Kyrie’s response to the journalist asking about his poor scoring run was, “Who cares?”. Really! Is that called being the leader of your team who just dodges responsibility instead of taking ownership and working on the tactics to turn the results? Didn’t you just say that you learned from LeBron to win a championship being 3–1 down against the Warriors? Yeah, he was a leader for interviews but when it came to winning, he wasn’t brave enough to admit that he needs to be in the shadow of an actual alpha.
And guess what? He jumped ship again after a failed season to join forces with KD in Brooklyn. He had a great opportunity in KD’s absence to really change the tone of the conversation around him and leave an impression on the new teammates. But guess what, nature and signature never change. He was injured for the most part so we will excuse that. But when healthy, he was a no show. After a terrible +/- in a loss against 76ers, Kyrie just went ahead and gave another stunner to the press. He said he needs more help even with KD, DeAndre Jordan, Dinwiddie. And guess what he missed a few names. That is wrong on so many levels. The most important thing of all, Kyrie and KD on the same squad, they don’t need more pieces. How? If you draw max salaries in the salary cap situation, you can’t expect the management for more signings.
When LeBron was getting ready to grab his 4th ring, he just popped out of nowhere to make another ridiculous argument. We understand Kyrie can make big shots. No one in Cleveland will ever forget your stepback over Steph. But saying it on KD’s podcast that for the first time in your life you are playing with someone who you trust to make clutch buckets as you. Maaannnnn, looks like someone didn’t do their homework. Go ask those people in Chicago, Boston, Orlando, Toronto, San Antonio, Washington, Indiana, Minnesota, how LeBron has made them shed tears after the buzzer. How much shade does he gotta throw at LeBron?
Okay, let’s just calm down. It’s a new season. KD is back. He will put some sense into Kyrie and they will gel to make it to the Finals. Oh no, what now? Kyrie has announced on social media that he won’t talk to the press. Because somehow he is so supremely intelligent that everyone apart from him gets the wrong message out of his words. It wouldn’t matter much, if not for the fact that he signed a contract with the NBA as a professional basketball player. The same contract which helps him draw a whopping 36 million a year. Well then, someone needs to get their butt in front of the camera.
Bringing the story back to where we started. Kyrie is missing and no one knows why except for the fact that there might be a personal problem. I sympathize with him but then a piece of new evidence comes to light which just leaves you bewildered and annoyed. A video surfaced on the social media which shows Kyrie partying without a mask and violating all COVID protocols laid out by the league. Such bigotry considering he led the voice to oppose the bubble a few months back citing health and safety even though the league did one hell of a job. It’s ironic that Kyrie considers the late great Kobe as his mentor, idol and friend and shows unprofessionalism which you wouldn’t have expected from Kobe in the worst scenarios.
James Harden has been traded to Brooklyn Nets which just changes the power dynamics in the East and maybe the NBA. This is reminiscent of LeBron’s decision in 2010 but with its own fair share of scepticism. James Harden’s saga has been nothing short of a drama. Combining it with Kyrie, it can be a true implosion. If it works out, we can see another dynasty like Warriors which lacks team chemistry for now. Let me paint a picture for you all: a company so badly wants to offer you a job. You make it clear that you won’t sign without your best friend. Your best friend has a great resume but shows signs of disobedience. Your boss tolerates it because of the star employee. Your friend goes missing out of the blue. Your boss still pays him the salary and you have to answer for his misdemeanour. Yup, that’s the situation KD faces. His hairline is surely receding with all this stress on the top of championship pressure.
Ohh the cherry on top, Kyrie also believes the Earth is flat. Earth is definitely not flat but Kyrie’s career growth trajectory surely looks like one. With all this said, let’s just hope that everything is actually fine in Kyrie’s personal life. He will soon be returning to Brooklyn and the trio could play for the first time together against Orlando this weekend. This roster on paper looks more like an all-star ensemble rather than an NBA team. And similar to all-star, promises a lot of offence without any defensive focus. Nets are the favourites in the East and addition of James Harden makes it a “Finals or Bust” season for them. Kyrie along with Harden has a lot to prove and the critics are on their toes to jump at the slightest hint of another tantrum. It’s time Kyrie shows us that he is truly a champion who keeps interests of the team above himself and makes his team rise on the occasion.