In the press conference following the Brooklyn Nets’ season-ending loss in Game 4, Kyrie Irving said he plans to be more involved in the decision-making with Nets owner Joe Tsai and general manager Sean Marks. And he stated his intention to re-sign with the team in the offseason.
“When I say I'm here with Kev [Durant], I think that really entails us managing this franchise together alongside Joe and Sean."
This is nothing new. In the NBA, player empowerment doesn’t just mean players getting more agency in where they go, it also means teams ceding some of the front office work and decision-making to the superstars. It’s almost become mandatory for franchises to hand control over to their cornerstones unless they want to lose out on signing or keeping them.
Most players have railed against the “business side” of basketball when it comes to getting traded or contract negotiations. Instead of being treated as business assets like some of their colleagues, NBA superstars have demanded they become business partners with the front office and ownership groups.
Kyrie’s statement above points to his intention to maintain business relations with the Nets. But, with how this season played out, does Kyrie want to do what’s best for business?
It would have been in the Nets’ best interest for him to get vaccinated so he didn’t have to miss games. When the Nets caved and allowed him to play only in road games in December, it would have still been great for the Nets’ business for him to get vaccinated so he could be available for more games as the Nets plummeted in the standings because of injury. He would have done a massive favor to his front office and ownership partners if he tried to maintain good relations with James Harden instead of nudging him towards a trade demand.
From the moment Kyrie demanded a trade out of Cleveland until now, it’s been all about what’s best for Kyrie, and the Nets have caved. What did the Nets get out of this business partnership? A total of 123 missed regular season games, a roster gutted of young assets, and another temperamental superstar who hasn't played that much since they traded for him.
The Nets should take a hard look at themselves before getting on the negotiating table with Kyrie Irving again. He missed games due to injury, but he also missed games due to plenty of personal reasons. It’s hard to do business when it gets personal.
Because really, a lot of Brooklyn’s woes would have been remedied had Kyrie started the season on the court instead of on Instagram. With Irving, Durant, and Harden, the Nets were unstoppable in the 16 games they played together. Even without one or two of his fellow stars, Durant was able to lead the Nets to one-shot inch away from the Eastern Conference Finals last season.
In all this, it’s Durant that has truly suffered. He’s had to carry this team countless times with insufficient help when he was promised to have fellow stars flanking him. The Nets played horrid without him late in the season and fell to 11th in the standings. When he came back, he averaged nearly 38 minutes a game in the Nets’ final 19 games just to qualify for the Play-In Tournament.
Durant was already fatigued when the Boston series started. He was truly beaten down by a Celtics defense that swarmed him with two to three defenders at a time. He managed 39 points in Game 4, but he chucked up 31 shots to get them.
The Nets have the most important pieces to winning titles – numerous superstars. Now, they face plenty of tough decisions in the offseason from Irving’s contract to Ben Simmons’ mental situation to navigating the free-agent market with pennies to spend. They can’t afford to make next season another disaster. They owe it to their most important partners – the paying fans.