Let me tell you something.
I didn’t think it was possible for anyone on the Nets––player, coach or manager––to outdo the Supreme Being of PR himself, Steve Nash, in a press conference.
And then it happened...
Kyrie Irving, who just this week committed to what many thought to be a “media blackout,” provided the single-best Nets interview since the NBA season returned on Draft Night, November 19th.
He was candid. He was forthcoming. He was apologetic. He was thorough. He made sure to thank each and every reporter, many times by name, after their questions. Little things, remarks like, “Wow, great question!” can brighten a reporters’ day. Irving did just that multiple times throughout the 15-minute Monday morning presser. He was in a word, as awesome on Monday morning as he had been Sunday night. And honestly, it was damn near the last thing on earth I or any of the other media on the other side of the Zoom call was expecting, given his stance on media from his statement 10 days ago to his more recent Instagram story just a few days ago when everyone believed he was referring to the media as “pawns.”
Gotta give credit where credit’s due.
Speaking of that aforementioned “media blackout,” Kyrie Irving tackled that question head-on in an answer to the third question of the media avail, explaining that his goal was never to outcast reporters on the Nets beat, nor even the media at large; it was just something he felt he had to do.
“The focus is what is going on here, my job. I wanted to make sure that was clear. No distractions. Nothing about dispelling anything. Nothing about going back and forth. Nothing about calling out one person or the other. Not even about referring to you guys (beat reporters) as ‘pawns.’ Or media.
“It’s just really how I felt about the mistreatment of certain artists when we get to a certain platform of when we make decisions in our lives to have full control or ownership. We go through the rigorous season, we do everything we were asked to do. And we want to perform in a secure and protected space. And if I can’t have my voice protected on this platform (media pressers) where I offer myself and my art, just inviting everyone into it because this is what I’ve been blessed to do.
“You know, I didn’t make it from the best circumstances; I made it because my family had a foundation and taught me the right things and how to live a principle-led life.”
Call it genuine sentiment from Mr. Irving. He not only offered his thoughts on the season of COVID-19, but also provided his condolences to those who have been affected by this terrible virus in this tough year. (According to my somewhat-reliable memory, I don’t recall anyone thus far in Brooklyn’s season wishing the reporters’ families well during a 2020-2021 presser.)
“Prayers out to everyone’s families, first and foremost. This is such a sensitive time in history, 2020 has not been friendly to everyone––it’s been filled with challenges, and life has come into play.”
He then broadened his concerns beyond the virus.
“I’m just grateful to be sitting here with you guys. You don’t want to take any day for granted. You want to come in, be happy, feel secure, and feel protected. The guys here have been able to come in and make me feel like that. That’s all that matters to me: what’s going on in this locker room, what’s going on out there on the court, and how can we go out there and grow and build. It’s there. It’s life. It’s COVID. We can’t do much about it. I well-wish everyone’s families. We’re here to play basketball, go out there and perform, and put on for our families.”
Irving switched gears a bit and then discussed how much the history of the Nets franchise meant to him, a Jersey kid, specifically touching on his decision to have his hometown of West Orange, New Jersey be announced (instead of his college, Duke University) during warmups.
“Just right before the game, I just wanted to hear it out: West Orange, New Jersey,” explained Kyrie. “I was grateful that our announcer––he was the same announcer that was with us in Cleveland, so we have a great rapport––I just wanted to be a great representation of my state.”
It’s more than clear: He’s excited to be here, in Brooklyn. As a Net. The ability to carry the mantle for this franchise means a lot to him––maybe more than it would to most NBA players.
“I’m just excited to grow and build,” said Irving. “Not just me: I’m grateful that I get to share the floor with so many other great players, good players with high IQs. It’s just so different here. I love it.”
Irving and his superstar teammate and best friend Kevin Durant made their presences known, once again, to the league at large the night before. Irving, of course, dropped 18 points, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 1 block in just 17 minutes of play, while his co-star Durant calmly oozed a smooth 15 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks. They were dominant in their returns to action, feeding off one another’s energy, and that was no accident.
Yes, the duo are incredibly close as friends, and that’s a big reason for their collective success, but they also have a shared interest in passing down their connectivity to their teammates; Irving and Durant have made it a mission to succeed as a group. It’s not a solitary mission, and it’s not just the two of them.
“I don’t really want to take away from what makes me and ‘K’ special because I really want to implement… this group is what makes us even more special. They’re alongside us for this journey and to aid us in our goals. Yeah, me and ‘K’ have a great relationship, but our synergy carries over to everyone else and we allow each other to teach, to learn… just do it every single day.”
And I’ll tell you what, much like head coach Steve Nash, Irving seems pretty enthused about the makeup of Brooklyn’s roster. He loves how many creators the Nets boast.
“Just with having so many guys who can play off the ball, with the basketball, our offense is predicated on guys just being efficient in space. Some of us don’t exactly have the target of shooters––catch-and-shoot––and we’re kind of one-on-one guards.
“We can get our own shots as guys who can do so many things intangibly with the game. But when you have Caris (LeVert), myself, Spence (Dinwiddie), and KD out there––just that four––alone in one group, it’s hard to match up; we see mismatches all over the floor. And then you add in the versatility of the other guards that we have that can play multiple positions with Tyler Johnson coming off the bench, being able to play defense and play lead guard. We got (Chris) Chiozza, who is a great backup as well. Guys are showing great things in camp, and we just want that to translate to the season.”
Speaking of Nash, Irving was more than complimentary of his new head coach. Crazy enough, Kyrie even lightly walked back his “collaborative” comments from a few months ago, explaining that the gravity of Nash’s two-time MVP aura left Irving in awe; his leadership, derived from success as a player and expert floor general, commanded respect in Irving’s eyes.
“Steve’s been amazing. It really is a reflection of the kind of person he is, the IQ he has for the game. He commands the respect. It’s not just through coming in and being the typical rah-rah coach, being on us. It’s just coming in and giving us a comfortable space to grow, to communicate, to throw ideas out there. And then you’ve got a two-time MVP coaching you, and I’m like ‘I think I’ve gotta take back my comments in terms of head coach from a few months ago,’” he said laughing. “Man, we have such great synergy, everyone feels like we’re coaching one another to be better, and I’m grateful for that.”
This year has been full of surprises, and this was one of them. Uncle Drew, who at many points has spoken with exasperation about the media, gave a razor-sharp presser full of pointed and frankly moving remarks. Look and listen for yourselves.
And look, I’ll say it. I want to hear more from Kyrie Andrew Irving. I hope we do.
- Kyrie Irving breaks his silence with ‘pawns’ explanation - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Kyrie Irving praises Nets, Steve Nash as star guard ends his media boycott - Greg Logan - Newsday
- Nets’ Kyrie Irving ends and explains his media blackout, injury history - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- The Nets have too many good players. Just ask Bruce Brown - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- Kyrie Irving on ‘pawns,’ Nets coach Steve Nash, title aspirations and more - Alex Schiffer - The Athletic New York
- Nets’ Kyrie Irving talks Steve Nash, ‘pawns’ comments and more in first media session - Scott Thompson - SNY
- Irving ends media silence, praises Nash in first interview - AP
- Kyrie Irving touches on media stance, Kevin Durant, new Nets coach Steve Nash - Malika Andrews - ESPN
- Kyrie Irving speaks to media for first time, explains early silence - Nick Friar - USA Today
- Kyrie Irving discusses Coach Nash, Harden rumors, more - Ethan Fuller - Basketball News
- The Baffling, Years-Long Beef Between Kyrie Irving and NBA Media, Explained - Damon Young - The Root
- KYRIE IRVING READY FOR THE JOURNEY WITH KEVIN DURANT - Tom Dowd - Brooklyn Nets