We’ve got plenty of ways to show that the Brooklyn Nets season isn’t going as planned this year—one of which they’re currently sitting at home despite hiring Kevin Durant—but an assistant coach using ESPN to announce he’s quitting then calling Kyrie Irving is pretty illustrative.
Former NBA All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire has spent the last two seasons as assistant to former team-mate Steve Nash’s coaching staff. During a string of appearances on ESPN on Thursday, he revealed he would not be returning to Brooklyn after a disappointing second consecutive playoff exit.
And then Stoudemire started talking all about Kyrie Irving.
In a discussion with Stephen A. Smith about “The First Take,” Stoudemire publicly admitted that Irving missed most of the season because his refusal to be vaccinated hurt the Nets’ ability to form a functioning team:
“Yeah, I think it’s to our detriment. It must have hurt us because we didn’t have enough consistency with Kyrie to build chemistry for the group with the team. He only plays away games depending on which city it is, can’t play in New York, therefore you have different lineups and different matches depending on the fixtures.
“So it’s hard for us coaches to know who’s going to play even though Kyrie. The chemistry isn’t what we wanted, so it’s hard for us to manage. So yeah, that’s definitely part of it.”
Irving’s status in Brooklyn has become a hot topic of discussion since the Nets were eliminated by the Boston Celtics in the first round.
The team had a lot of problems — age, training, and the lack of Ben Simmons between them — but general manager Sean Marks was emphatic that the team needed players “available” in the new post-series conference. Stoudemire seemed to agree, and it was hard to imagine him alone in the Nets organization.
Meanwhile, Irving, who holds player options for next season, said he hopes to continue managing the organization alongside Durant, Marks and team owner Joseph Tsai.
While speaking with Max Kellerman and Jalen Rose on “Get Up,” Stoudemire praised Marks for trying to assert control of the situation:
“I think Sean Marks did a great job trying to get the power back into his hands and making sure he was in control of the situation. But I think with Kevin and Ky, he should really sit down. Because of Kyrie, ever since he signed with the Nets, he has missed more games than he has played.
“So I think you should have a conversation. Your two star players need to sit in a room and say, ‘Kyrie what is your goal? You want to be the best player in the game? Do you want to achieve more in this game? forward?’ And if both understand that ‘hey, we want to make this thing special here, want to win the championship,’ and he’s committed to playing in that game, then I think you bring him back.”
While Stoudemire was candid about the issues between Irving and the Nets, he hit back when Smith argued that the team needed to get rid of Nash or the point guard. He even claimed Irving was an insult to the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team, which is an argument for another day:
“I don’t agree with that. I think Steve and Kyrie can understand that. I felt Kyrie had to make a commitment to himself and the game of basketball. about how committed he is to being a great player because I feel Kyrie should be in the Top 75. But at the same time, you must now take that as motivation going into next season and prove to yourself that you are a top player and do so consistently throughout the season. “
We’ll see if Irving and Nash finally make it, or if the point guard ever gets the message.