NBA Rumor: Brooklyn Nets Turmoil?

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Kyrie Irving on season: 'The life of a martyr, bro'

“I was not expecting a mandate to be brought down in a way where it wasn’t going to let me play at all,” Irving said on “The ETCs” podcast that published Wednesday. “I had the opportunity to play away games still, but there was no plan in place, there was no vision of how it was going to work for our team. And I think that really impacted not just me, but a lot of people. Just had to sit in that hot seat for a little bit and deal with it. The life of a martyr, bro.”

“Not everybody understood my stance this year of being unvaccinated or remaining unvaccinated. I was asked in all different types of ways how I felt and whether or not I was going to waver, did I feel like I was letting the world down or letting the Nets fans down, letting my teammates down. Yeah, part of that letdown feeling definitely seeped in, because it completely caught me off guard. I didn’t expect to come into the season with all of this being put on my plate.

“But really what I was standing on was, hey, there’s a whole community of us right that have been labeled as the unvaccinated, as the conspiracy theorists, whatever, you know, we’ve been labeled as whatever these names have been brought to our lives, right, who we are as people. But I was just saying, I am human, you’re human. You have the right to make your own decision. I respect that. And I pray that you respect me in the same way. But when you’re playing in an entertainment game, and you’re playing kind of a bigger game yourself, it has rules, so …”

Kyrie Irving wondered whether he was going to be traded or released

“There was nothing to lose, you know?” Irving said of his return. “It was only the journey to enjoy at that point, because I was sitting at home and — I don’t even want to say sitting at home, I was wondering at home what my future was going to look like, you know? Whether I was going to be traded, whether I was going to be released, whether I was going to get the opportunity to be on another team, how I was going to spin this for myself in a positive way.”

Irving said his relationships with family and friends helped get him through it all but even when he got back on the court, he didn’t think he was playing at a high level. “So, I kept affirming to myself things are going to change. I had people around me — and I’m grateful for them — affirming that things were going to change. But I never felt like myself throughout the season, because I’m usually sustaining a level of growth throughout the year, instead of trying to catch up with everybody that’s been playing for four or five months. They’ve been at it every day since October or September.”

Kevin Durant on losing again vs. Celtics: 'It's a sh–ty game. Sh–ty game'

The death knell may have sounded on the Nets’ disappointing season — killed by Kevin Durant’s surprising struggles and their porous defense. The Nets lost, 109-103, in Game 3 of its first-round series against the Celtics before 18,175 at Barclays Center. The preseason title favorites now are just a loss away from an embarrassing first-round exit. “It’s a sh–ty game. Sh–ty game,” a despondent Durant said before dropping the microphone and ending his press conference with the same energy the Nets may have ended their playoffs.

Nets Videos: Kyrie Irving on Ramadan fasting possibly affecting his play: “When I step into this building, I don’t want any excuses on my name… in terms of my play and stuff like that, I just got to do better.”

Ben Golliver: Nets’ Kyrie Irving on Game 3 loss to Celtics: “You could put in on me, in terms of playing better, controlling the game better, controlling our possessions, being more in a stance, not turning the ball over as much. I had five fouls tonight. You could put it on me.”

The Nets trail in the series 3-0, and no team in NBA history has ever come back from such a deficit. Nothing the Nets have shown through the first three games has engendered confidence they can be the first. “There’s not much to say. We know what it is,” Kyrie Irving said. “You’ve just got to take your lessons, learn what you can from this and just get ready for [Game 4] Monday. There’s no time to hold your head, no time to think about what everyone else is saying: Just go play basketball.”

Kevin Durant: 'It's on me to just finish it and figure it out'

Durant went 0-for-10 from the field in the second half, the most field goal attempts without a make in any half of his career, according to research from ESPN Stats & Information. After finishing 4-of-17 on Wednesday, Durant is a combined 13-for-40 from the field in the series. “It’s on me to just finish it and figure it out,” he said. “I’m not expecting my teammates or the defense to give me anything. I just got to go out there and play.”

“The relationship was fine,” Curry told ESPN’s Nick Friedell. “He wasn’t around. So I don’t know what [Green] meant by that. ‘Wasn’t cordial,’ I don’t know what that means, but the relationship was fine. He just wasn’t around so we didn’t see him a lot or we didn’t talk a lot. “But as far as now, he’s on my [team]. I went to battle with him last year, we did a lot of good stuff and I’m going to go to war with who I’m going to go to war with and who’s on my team, so I’m looking forward to getting back out there with him and doing good stuff.”

Kevin Durant the one pulling the trigger on James Harden trade?

By Thursday morning, Durant dialed Nets general manager Sean Marks, sources said. While Durant had initially resisted swapping Harden for Simmons, Harden had finally forced his hand. Brooklyn’s spiral of losses and Harden’s freelancing behavior created an untenable situation. “Kevin’s the one that pulled the trigger with this,” another source with knowledge of the situation said. “Kevin’s the one that said, ‘Do this deal.’ There was growing concern that this entire season would be lost and then they’d lose James for nothing.”

Nets' Bruce Brown: After trade deadline, everybody likes everybody

Brown, who had 19 points, 6 rebounds and d6 assists and played solid defense, was given the game ball after the win and noted that there is a much happier “vibe” in the locker room over the past few days. “The locker room, it’s just a great vibe in there right now,” Brown said. “I don’t know what it is, everything just shifted after the trade deadline. Everybody likes everybody, so it’s just great.”

Kyrie Irving fires back after report that he wanted James Harden out of Brooklyn

Kyrie Irving: 'Building championship habits takes time'

Despite all the problems, Irving remains optimistic that the Nets eventually will be able to turn things around as they continue to learn more about one another. “Building championship habits takes time,” Irving said. “And time is not necessarily always on our side. I don’t know what game this is for me, so I’m still just getting used to being in this flow of everything right now, still being in an observant place. But building championship habits is staying resilient and knowing that there’s another level to push to when you’re tired and you have all the excuses in the world and you just continue on. You don’t hold your head or anything like that.”

As the losses pile up, skepticism around the league grows about whether the Nets can reach the championship potential many thought they could achieve before the season began — but Irving wants his beleaguered group to focus on what’s still ahead. “It’s really just where we are, facing reality, that we’re not winning ballgames right now,” Irving said after the game. “And we got to kind of get out of that hole with just one win and then start a new streak from that point. But no time to feel like our season is in doomsday or we need to push the panic button at all points, but we have to face reality that a lot of guys, a lot of my teammates, we’re still getting to know one another, how we play, what’s our spots, offensive and defensive tendencies.

Irving had 15 points and six assists, but shot 6-for-20 and finished a minus-29. Patty Mills was a minus-27. Starters Claxton, Kessler Edwards and James Johnson combined for a grand total of two points on 1-for-14 shooting from the floor. That’s the kind of evening it was for the Nets, for whom rookie Cam Thomas’ career-high 30 was about the only bright spot. “This is one of the worst games I’ve seen all year. This is bad,” one Eastern Conference scout told The Post. “But there’s not much out there.”

“I don’t know about any reports,” Harden said. “Of course I’m frustrated because we’re not healthy, there’s a lot of inconsistencies for whatever reason: injuries, COVID, whatever you want to call it. But yeah, it’s frustrating. I think everyone in this organization is frustrated because we are better than what our record is, and we should be on the way up. That’s all it is. I don’t know anything about any reports. If you didn’t hear it from me, I don’t talk to nobody. I have an agent. If you don’t hear it from me, then it’s reports, So I’m frustrated because I wanna win and I’m a competitor. It’s pretty simple.”

Kevin Durant sounds off after loss to Clippers

Tthe first-place Nets wasted another 30-point triple-double from James Harden and suffered a shocking fourth-quarter collapse in a 120-116 loss to the undermanned Clippers at Barclays Center. Nets coach Steve Nash thought his first-place team “never really had the care factor or turned it up” against a depleted opponent, especially in allowing an “unacceptable” 71 points in the second half, and a steamed Kevin Durant used profane language to call out the entire team for taking the Clippers too lightly. “Like Coach said, we didn’t deserve to win this game. We came in here with a f–ked up attitude to start, thinking we were just gonna walk into a W,” Durant said. “Hopefully, a loss like this sit in your brain until tomorrow. … If you ain’t feeling like s–t after this game, you gotta look yourself in the mirror.”

Both Durant and Nash acknowledged the team’s intensity wasn’t where it needed to be from the start. “It’s natural when a team is missing so many players,” Durant said when asked why the Nets’ attitude was the way it was. “They’re going through so much over there. [We] relaxed. You don’t think you could lose an NBA game like this. They’re missing how many guys? They’re playing guys that are up from the G League. Xavier Moon came in and hit some shots for them. Keon Johnson, James Ennis — they all made an impact I felt on the game, and I think we came in too chill to start.”

Harden recorded his third 30-point triple-double in four games since his return from the NBA’s health and safety protocols. The nine-time All-Star finished with 34 points, 12 rebounds and 13 assists in 40 minutes to continue his best string of performances of the season. “It’s a tough one. It’s frustrating,” Harden said. We just didn’t do the things to secure the win or do what we’re supposed to do. “I don’t think we did that from the beginning of the game, and we give a team confidence and let them hang in the game for four quarters, and stuff like this happens.”

Brad Hoylman, the New York state senator who introduced legislation that would expand vaccine requirements to visiting players and performers, tells Rolling Stone that Irving’s reinstatement is “an outrage” that has already helped normalize vaccine denial and super-spreader events: “It makes my blood boil that celebrities and professional athletes are getting a pass. And the rest of us? Our health is endangered, and we’re sick and dying. It’s the ultimate F-you to fans.”

The plan to bring back Kyrie Irving was put into motion as early as last week, sources tell me and NetsDaily. Setting the stage, the Nets made the decision on October 12 to ban Kyrie Irving from team activities until he was “eligible to be a full participant,” either by getting the COVID-19 vaccine… or until the New York City mandate changed. For the first two months of the season, the Nets did not waiver from that decision. That all changed after a mid-December meeting.

Nets owner on Kyrie Irving situation: 'My only religion is to win games and win the championship'

Kyrie Irving’s return to the court — unvaccinated and part-time — is as seismic as it is controversial. The Nets aren’t naïve to that. But Nets owner Joe Tsai told The Post they’re not trying to champion a cause. They’re trying to be champions. And letting Irving play — even if it’s just on the road — gets them closer. “We’re trying to be practical. And I’ve always said I don’t want to make this a political issue,” Tsai told The Post by phone Friday night. “My only religion is to win games and win the championship. That’s where we are.”

But now after seeing the roster decimated and Irving expressing a desire to return, Tsai and Marks brought him back — with Durant and Harden on board. “So I think a lot of people that are either pro-vax or anti-vax people are mad at me for taking one stance or the other. But I have said from the very beginning I’m not taking this as a political thing,” Tsai told The Post. “I’m doing this to help the Brooklyn Nets win a championship. That’s the thinking.”

One longtime NBA coach told The Athletic that letting Irving play only in road games would be the equivalent of “dropping a large boulder into a small pond every few weeks” in relation to team chemistry due to the role Irving has on the team. Now that option could be back on the table. It’s unclear whether Irving’s return would be through vaccination — he would need to take one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or two doses of Pfizer or Moderna to satisfy the mandate — or if he would just practice and play on the road.

Irving’s unwillingness to play for another team could even prompt him to retire if traded,according to Marc Stein. However, Irving himself said he has no plans to do so, which means he and the Nets are stuck in limbo in the meantime. There is no breach of contract since Irving is only losing the money for home games he’s ineligible for. As long he is comfortable with that, the Nets will have no choice but to eithertrade him, waive him, or wait this out.

Williams, of course, was a star at Duke and taken with the second overall pick by the Chicago Bulls in the 2002 NBA Draft. He suffered severe injuries in a motorcycle crash in 2003 that ultimately cost him his playing career. Williams also doubled down on his defense of Irving. “Kyrie Irving doesn’t owe you anything. He doesn’t owe you a response on your timeline. He doesn’t owe you answers that you feel like you need,” Williams said. “Everybody says, ‘Oh, the NBA season starts in five days.’ Who gives a damn.”

Kevin Durant on Kyrie Irving situation: 'What is being mad going to do?'

“This is not the ideal situation coming into the season but it’s out of our control. What we can do is come in and focus on our jobs every single day. What is being mad going to do? It’s not going to change his mind,” Durant said after the Nets preseason finale win over the Timberwolves. “We’ll let him figure what he needs to do and let the team figure out what they need to do. Us as players, when we’re in the locker room or on the floor, we are going to work with each other. Life is amazing. I can’t be too mad at somebody making a decision for themselves. Who am I to get upset at that?”
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