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NETS 2021: Is Kyrie Irving becoming a ‘non-person’ in Nets scheme of things?

Brooklyn Nets All-Access Practice Photo by David L. Nemec/NBAE via Getty Images

TMZ got ahold of some video this weekend showing Kyrie Irving working out ... in a 4-on-4 game of pick-up football on an unidentified soccer field in New Jersey.

It also showed up on local TV news. Whoever shot the video — TMZ said merely it had “obtained” it — didn’t speak with Irving.

The video, though a short 53 seconds, was longer than any Irving appearance in any of the Nets various promotional videos posted by the organization in the past several days. It appears the organization and team are attempting to move on from the controversy created by their prodigal superstar’s refusal to get vaccinated.

Indeed, Irving’s absence was no more strikingly evident than in those promotional videos. “Brookyn Bridge,” the Nets internally produced video magazine, had a single five-second clip of Irving driving to the rim while the team was practicing in San Diego. Five seconds out of a 10 minute and 57 second video posted on the team’s YouTube site. The video of Irving starts at 6:17 in.

Otherwise, he wasn’t seen, his name wasn’t mentioned and he had no sound bytes discussing the upcoming season unlike Kevin Durant, James Harden, Joe Harris, Patty Mills, Sean Marks and Steve Nash.

Similarly, a one-minute Twitter video emphasizing the team’s roots in Brooklyn posted Monday was devoid of any Irving references. James Johnson and Blake Griffin spoke though.

In short, is he becoming a non-person?

At Monday’s media availability, none of his teammates mentioned him by name ... although several reporters asked about him. The theme was simple: we have a game to play, a season to start and we’ll play with who and what we have on the court. No animosity, just reality. There’s also no indication that the organization’s stance — that they’d welcome Irving back when he’s in compliance with city protocols — has changed.

Hard to imagine that Fiserv Arena in Milwaukee and certainly Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia won’t be filled with “Where’s Kyrie?” chants. It’s too easy. Durant, without mentioning Irving, noted Monday that there will be “chatter” about the Nets situation.

”We know how crazy this year might be as far as the chatter around our team. So we want to stay locked in with each other, focus on whoever’s in the building and let that stuff take care of itself,” said KD.

“You can’t control what people say and articles that’s being written, the narrative that’s being formed around our team. It’s part of our job, so we’ve got to deal with that. I wish we could just focus on the purity of the game, but we understand what the moneymaker is here. As long as we focus during the games and lock in once we’re on the floor, we’ll be all right.”

Also Monday, Joe Tsai spoke about the issue at the Milken Institute’s Global Conference on Digital Transformation of Sports. Asked about what happens when social media casts a negative shadow on sports, like Irving, what does an owner do?

“It’s a great question. If I knew the answer...” he started with a smile before turning serious.

“This season we have unfinished business. We all know how last season ended. We feel like our collective goal is to go for a championship this season. I respect individual choice. But when individual action is not consistent with the collective goal, the team has to move on. And that’s what we’ve done.

“For me, as the owner, its the only fair thing to do for our fans, our players, our coaching staff, everyone involved in our organization. It’s the only fair thing to do.”

Can the Nets win and win big without Irving for the foreseeable future? We shall see but in the meantime, he’s out of the picture, literally and figuratively.