All quiet on the Kyrie Irving front. Other than a couple of cryptic posts on Instagram, he hasn’t been heard from since his Instagram Live post on October 14. Since then, several hundred demonstrators tried to storm Barclays Center while chanting “Free Kyrie” and “Heil Fauci” on Opening Day and Joe Tsai has said he has “all the patience” to get things resolved ... but also noted he hasn’t spoken to his superstar guard.
The Nets meanwhile have moved on. Steve Nash said he’s “trying to build a new team” and Brooklyn is now 7-4, relying on Kevin Durant, James Harden and an emerging defense to get things done. Still, there’s no doubt they could use him, like on Monday night when the Nets offense fell apart in the fourth quarter.
As Bulls coach Billy Donovan said in a response to a Greg Logan question about Nets without Kyrie: “When you take great player out of your lineup, it makes an impact.”
So how long can the standoff last? How can it be resolved? There’s no indication that Irving will relent and get the vaccine. Nor is there any indication that New York City is willing to change its mandate and permit him to play. The mayor-elect, Eric Adams, said it Friday: “New York City is not going to change their rule.” Still, Nash, Durant and Sean Marks have all said they’d welcome Irving back with open arms.
And there doesn’t appear to be much of a market for him. In a couple of recent comments, Adrian Wojnarowski has said the team has been in a listening mode when teams call about his trade status but didn’t identify who’s called Marks ... or what was discussed.
In his Thursday appearance on ESPN, Woj noted in an understatement, “There’s a lot to watch here.” Woj previously dismissed speculation about a trade of the East’s two prodigal point guards, Irving for Philly’s Ben Simmons, saying of the 76ers, “They have not made that call to Brooklyn and I don’t that they ever will. You never know, things could change, but they haven’t made it yet [and] I’m not sure they’re going to make it.” (Daryl Morey has reportedly passed on signing even vets minimum deals with unvaccinated players.)
Now, Mike Scotto of Hoopshype says Irving’s trade value is fast approaching nil. Irving, Scotto writes Tuesday, scares other teams.
“For the most part, every front office and coaching staff is scared to death of him and doesn’t want to touch him,” one NBA executive told HoopsHype. “Honestly, it might’ve been four teams before this (his refusal to get vaccinated). He’s a guy that front offices don’t trust. Coaches don’t want to deal with him. Players like him.”
Indeed, players rave about him being a good teammate, both on and off the court. But as Scotto writes, there has been a litany of issues Irving has had with front offices over the course of his career that could give executives — and owners — pause. Over past year and a half, Scotto notes, Irving has been a leader in discussions to boycott the NBA “bubble” and disappeared for eight games, eventually citing “family and personal stuff” for his absence.
“I don’t think they can trade him,” one executive said bluntly. “I think they’re just stuck. I don’t think it makes sense for anybody. I’m not aware of any team that wants him.”
Scotto writes as well about how team concerns, at least in the past, extended to the locker room and differences with coaching staffs.
“He had his own way about things,” one of Irving’s former assistant coaches told HoopsHype. “If he didn’t agree with the philosophy, he was going to do his own thing. In coaching, you always hope the player will at least try the coach’s way. Most coaches will see they’re trying to execute, and if it’s not working, they change it. Kyrie is like, if this isn’t going to work, I’m not going to do it.”
Then, there are the reports that the 29-year-old can be “different” and “moody,” as Scotto put it.
So what would an interested team give up for a player who has an NBA ring, Olympic and FIBA World Cup gold medals, seven All-Star berths and last year, became only the second guard in NBA history to average 25 points while joining the 50/40/90 Club?
“He’s a max player, who people would not give up assets you’d traditionally give up,” as one NBA executive surmised. “There’s so much risk associated with him that I think most teams wouldn’t pay in a trade what you’d expect someone to pay given his skill level when he’s at his best.”
Scotto concludes by noting that the best route of the Nets might be to simply wait. There’s no real pressure. Brooklyn is winning and healthy and there are few big trades before December 15, the first day that free agents signed during the off-season can be moved. That expands the pool of players by around 150 players, a third of the league.
“Brooklyn is probably the only team in the league that can carry him in the locker room, tolerate the PR demands, and maintain fan support,” another executive told Scotto. “They’re one of the only teams in the league where he’s not one of their best two players. He also enticed Durant to Brooklyn, and he deserves credit for that. There’s a shared responsibility for his absence with the city’s vaccination mandate.”
Bottom line: things can always change, but don’t expect much on the Kyrie front at least in the short term.
- NBA execs on Kyrie Irving’s trade value: ‘Every front office is scared to death of him’ - Michael Scotto - Hoopshype