Those who know — and even just know of — Kyrie Irving have come to learn to accept his Hyde side. He simply thinks differently, and the inevitable assessment has little to do with his belief that the Earth is flat. His unique wiring is why he felt the need to abandon a seemingly cushy position with the Cavaliers in 2017, and why he saw fit to bid goodbye to the Celtics two years later. It also informs his actions as a member of the Nets’ Big Three; from the prolonged sabbatical he took to his violation of health and safety protocols to his continual refusal to make himself available to the media, he chooses to march to the beat of his own tune. And the clincher is that he does so with equal parts defiance and pride.
Irving is, of course, entitled to live his life the way he wants. He certainly has both the opportunity and the wherewithal to do so. But there’s a flipside, and his refusal to acknowledge it has cost him and those around him. Ask the Cavaliers and Celtics, whose futures were negatively impacted by his departure. And ask the Nets, who are compelled to keep on adjusting to him depending on which side of the bed he wakes up. It has resulted in tangible losses, literally and figuratively.
Make no mistake. Irving is worth all the trouble. For all his seeming minuses, he’s a wizard with the ball in his hands; he may be only 6’2”, but there’s no one better at mixing style with substance in making leather and nylon meet. Again and again. Which is why the Nets find value in adjusting to his whims, not to mention absorbing the fines they incur with every transgression he makes. Never mind that he does nobody any favors when he says he has no time for “pawns,” and that he exposes himself as hypocritical at best when he claims “I’m here for Peace, Love, and Greatness.”
At this point, the Nets are hoping their sacrifices will ultimately pay off with the Larry O’Brien Trophy. That they’re a mere two games behind the pacesetting Sixers in the East speaks volumes of their intrinsic competitiveness. To be sure, their strengths have never been in question; the presence of former Most Valuable Player awardees Kevin Durant and James Harden make them prohibitive favorites for the championship. All things considered, their weaknesses will define their campaign, and Irving would do well not to get himself counted as one. Else, they need not look beyond their own locker room to find the biggest threat to their title aspirations.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.