One of the biggest questions facing the Nets as they go forward is how much, if at all, the franchise’s issues with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving — which ultimately led to both being traded last month — will effect their plans to add superstars in the future.
In particular, did the Nets suspension of Irving for posting a link to an anti-semitic video, leave a mark on the franchise’s reputation among the league’s best players? The suspension, which lasted eight games and was divisive for a number of reasons. The Nets said in a statement that Irving was “unfit to be associated with the Brooklyn Nets” and Joe Tsai told Brian Lewis that Irving “still has work to do. He has to show people that he’s sorry” even after he apologized. Of course, Irving didn’t help matters with his press conference that included him doubling down on a number of controversial issues. Ultimately, that wore everyone down.
Jaylen Brown is an Irving defender and even implied Tsai was a hypocrite because of Alibaba’s investment in Chinese companies that aimed their surveillance technology at China’s Muslims. He told Logan Murdock of The Ringer this week that he believes the Nets violated the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NBPA in dealing with Irving.
“That’s my job as vice president of the union,” Brown told Murdoch. “The union is supposed to be an entity to protect the players, especially their rights and their freedom of speech. I feel like what the Brooklyn Nets did—I still feel the same way—it was inappropriate. I think it was like a public ransom note almost, in a sense, where he had a list of demands he had to do to return to the game. It was a violation of our CBA. It’s a violation of our agreement and kind of got looked over like it was nothing.”
Brown’s position is even more relevant in that he may soon be a top free agent, the kind of budding superstar that Nets will need if they want to get back into championship contention.
Irving, for his part, told Murdock that he appreciated Brown’s support at the time.
“He was one of the main ones that really stood beside me,” Irving says. “And was 10 toes with me and just telling me like, ‘You know, it’s going to be all right. There’s peace of mind at the end of this road, but I want to let you know that you’re not alone in this.’”
And Brown returned the favor, saying that even when Irving is wrong — and Brown concedes that Irving has been — he isn’t afraid of being so.
“Kyrie is one of those people who isn’t afraid of being wrong,” Brown says. “He isn’t afraid of being embarrassed. He’s not afraid of big moments either, doing great things. He’s one of those people that’s special. We see him at the top of the world, and we see him make some mistakes as well. But I appreciate the fact that the fear factor for him, even though he might have been afraid, didn’t stop him from doing or saying what he felt was right, for what he felt he needed to do. And that doesn’t exist in 99 percent of people. So, people can say what they want about Kyrie Irving, but he’s definitely my friend.”
Brown himself been tarred by recent overall anti-semitism controversies, as Murdock recounts. He aligned himself with the erratic if charismatic Kanye West before West made his own anti-semitic statements. Brown also tweeted then deleted a comment supporting demonstrations outside Barclays Center by Israel United in Christ, a religious sect designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Brown said he wrongly believed the group was the Black fraternity Omega Psi Psi.
In talking with Murdock, Brown also spoke about his annoyance — or worse — with always being including in talks about superstar trades. He was probably the most prominent name mentioned last summer when Durant first asked for a trade. He wondered if Durant’s relationship with Jayson Tatum was an issue for him.
“[KD] and JT are friends. They was working out together and whatnot,” Brown told Murdock in explaining how he felt. “So, I wasn’t sure what the energy was. I wasn’t sure what the direction of the organization was.”
In a three-way conversation with Tatum and Boston GM Brad Stevens, he was assured he wasn’t going anywhere. But Brown says that conversation, then another last month with owner Wyc Grousbeck after KD once again demanded a trade, hasn’t reassured him that his place in Boston is set.
“It’s hard coming into teams and organizations and being warm. They operate on different principles, I think. This is an organization. They look at it as a business, where they’ll tell you one thing, and then behind closed doors, they’ll say another, and they’ll trade you off,” he says. “Tell you, ‘We love you,’ and they’ll be having like, ‘We’re going to trade him next week.’ I think that’s just how business is run.”
And increasingly, it’s how the NBA is run, as each and every Nets fan can tell you.
- Jaylen Brown Is Trying to Find a Balance - Logan Murdock - The Ringer
- NBPA VP Jaylen Brown: Nets’ Kyrie Irving suspension violated CBA - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- Why luring the Celtics’ Jaylen Brown to the Nets could get complicated - Brian Lewis - New York Post