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Is Nets’ failure to understand Kyrie Irving the root of their issues with superstars?

NBA Playoffs: Boston Celtics vs Brooklyn Nets pregame Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

It is the other side of the story ... to some extent. Do the Nets understand Kyrie Irving and is that at the root of their problems with both him and Kevin Durant? It’s not something talked about on ESPN or reported by The Athletic, but more than one pundit with ties to KD has suggested it’s at the root of their problems.

So put aside the day in, day out, rumor mill with its often contradictory reports on what’s up with the Nets and their superstars.

The first to suggest that the Nets supposed failure to understand Irving came from Logan Murdock in the days before KD decided to opt out. Murdock, who traveled with the Nets this past season and covered Durant with the Warriors, said Durant had lost confidence in the Nets front office for a number of reasons, but specifically cited what KD thought was a failure to understand Irving. He did note that the $36 million dollar-a-year guard had to sit out most of the season after refusing to get vaccinated.

“His biggest beef is that he feels that the front office didn’t grow to understand Kyrie, whatever that means,” Murdock told Kevin O’Connor on O’Connor’s podcast. “I would push back on that when a guy leaves for two weeks at a time ... Kyrie earns the lion’s share of the blame. But I think KD believes that ‘hey, you guys didn’t understand this guy. You didn’t try to figure out where he was coming from.’”

Subsequently, Jamal Crawford, who played the final game of his 20-year career with Brooklyn, hinted at the same issue, saying that Irving, while admittedly a volatile personality, is also an artist and like many artists is often misunderstood. Appearing on the NBA’s Vince Carter Show two weeks ago. he was asked by Ros Gold-Onwude if Irving is misunderstood.

“Kyrie, he’s very artsy. So when he’s playing basketball, he doesn’t look at himself as playing basketball. He’s ... he thinks like an artist. He really does. So with an artist, you have this canvas, ‘I may draw here, maybe red. over here maybe blue.’ Red and blue don’t go together. Like Crips and bloods don’t go together,” said Crawford, mimicking someone who doesn’t understand art the way the artist does. “‘They go together in my dark, twisted fantasy like Kanye.’ Like he’s a genius in that way. He’s an artist.”

That, he says, makes him misunderstood. He, too, admitted that there are contractual issues, but emphasized that artists are different and should be seen that way.

“Very much so. I think he’s more misunderstood than accountable,” Crawford continued. “Obviously when you sign a contract, you have to show up and perform. I get that part. But he’s misunderstood because when you’re an artist to that degree, you see things differently anyway. Like it’s not normal to see things. Tupac, for example. he didn’t see things like a normal rapper. He saw it differently.

“They say when you’re a genius, you’re this close to being crazy. You’re a little out of touch because you have to think differently to be a genius. You can’t think the same as everybody else.”

Crawford added that the two players’ connection is strong and based not on basketball but character calling both high character individuals who think of others first.

“Character ... he’s top-notch. Another one who cares about people,” said Crawford of Irving. “I think that’s the common bond between them. They’re very similar that way.”

Crawford never played with either superstar — he played in the “bubble” when Durant and Irving were injured — but knows both, particularly KD. He said Durant’s decision to seek a trade was a shock to him.

“Obviously the Kyrie situation it was going to come to the forefront at some point, obviously. it’s been a story all year,” he said. “Kevin’s situation is what threw me off. because the day before, if you look at it, the timing of it. Kyrie is ‘okay, I’m opting in. See you in the fall.’ The next day, Kevin comes out — he didn’t say it, but they’re saying — ‘I want out of here.’”

Were the superstars “in cahoots?,” Gold-Onwude asked.

“That’s the part I can’t put my finger on. I really can’t put my finger on it. Because I’m looking at it, the timing of it, and I’m saying why announce then but you never know. Then, I hear that they might want to pair back up somewhere that’s not Brooklyn. That part is the tricky part. If I was in that locker room, I’d be able to tell you. but right now, I don’t know.”

Crawford also said he believes that people should first look at the Nets role in the loss of not just Durant and Irving, but James Harden as well. Harden, of course, asked for a trade and was sent to Philadelphia ... at least in part because of Irving’s refusal to get vaccinated.

“I’d look at the Nets first. The fact that you had Harden, KD and Kyrie and three of these guys are gone in one year. I’m not looking at the players. I’m looking at them first. I’m going to give them a deeper look at what’s going on.

Asked if the Nets mishandled things, Crawford responded, “It appears so. it absolutely appears so because these are three superstars. generational talents and they are out ... in a year?! That’s something to look at.”

What should Durant do now, Crawford was asked.

“I think that Kevin should do what’s best for him. Kevin is such a giver. If you know him, he’s always worried about other people, thinking about other people. He worries about himself last. I think he should worry about himself and put himself first, worry about his happiness. That’s what I think he should do.”

Meanwhile, back at the rumor mill, Adrian Wojnarowski said the Nets still have not seen a trade package they like.

“Brooklyn simply doesn’t have a deal out there that’s good enough to justify trading Kevin Durant with four years left on his contract,” said Woj on ESPN. “They continue to talk to teams around the league but simply, no one is meeting that threshold.”