Another day, another controversy for the Nets and Kyrie Irving. This time, though, the split appears to be for good. After the mercurial guard failed to get his sought-for contract extension, he figured his time in black and white was up, and thus wasted no pushing for a trade. He couched his demand as a “request,” but he wasn’t fooling any quarter. The fact that he then missed a game against the Wizards yesterday due to “right calf soreness” spoke volumes of his state of mind. Apparently, he’s bent on cutting and cutting cleanly. Never mind his previous pronouncements that he, just like everyone else in the locker room, was “all in.”
To be sure, the Nets figure to emerge from the divorce all the better in the long run. Just as he wound up becoming in his last days with the Cavaliers and Celtics, he’s a toxic presence that, on balance, does far more harm than good. Sure, he weaves magic on the court; his handles are without peer, certainly among the best of all time, and his scintillant shotmaking belies his 6’2”, 195-pound frame. On the other hand, he wreaks not inconsiderable havoc off the court as well; between his flat-Earth and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and predilection for flights of fancy, he presents a reputational risk that cannot be quantified.
For the short term, though, the Nets will be compelled to pick up the pieces of their failed bid to be counted among the National Basketball Association elite. They thought they had assembled a pool of talents that had them rightly casting moist eyes on the Larry O’Brien Trophy, only to be thwarted by one bad turn after another. For all the marquee names donning their jersey at one time or another, they had but one second-round showing in the playoffs to show. And now they’re facing the prospect of an early vacation and a future without future Hall of Famer Kevin Durant.
The irony is that there will be no shortage of suitors for Irving. Would-be contenders believing they’re just one All-Star away from solid contention are already lining up on his doorstep. That said, he’s not likely to get the maximum-salary and -term extension he wants — not with his Jeckyll-and-Hyde persona, and not with his capacity for ultimately wearing out his welcome at every stop. He’ll come with excess baggage, and those slated to welcome him with open arms may well find out they can’t carry the load in the end.
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.