Since last Wednesday’s debacle in the United States Capitol, Kyrie Irving has been on a personal leave of absence. To be honest with you, after just a day prior seeing the Jacob Blake ruling come down, I was surprised the NBA played games on that Wednesday after the US Capitol failure.
I am not an American, nor am I black so to act like I would have any idea what those days happening so closely would do to someone who is both of those things is something I’ll never be able to understand. The work Kyrie has done off the court for his community and for the political activism he believes in is commendable and should be talked about more.
But, when Kyrie’s Brooklyn Nets decided to trade everything they had and more for James Harden exactly a week after the US Capitol, you can’t tell me Kyrie’s extended absence wasn’t part of why they did.
There are some truths with Kyrie that have to be understood to make sense of all of this.
Firstly, as I said above, Kyrie is a tremendous activist for what he believes in. The money and time he’s invested into his community and helping others are right there with the best in the NBA. There’s no doubt that unlike some other pro athletes and celebrities who claim to care about these issues but do little for them, Kyrie and the money and work he’s done is the opposite and has shown time and again he’s willing to sacrifice to help.
I don’t use the word sacrifice there lightly and there’s a reason for this. Prior to the NBA’s bubble, Kyrie said famously he was willing to quit basketball to focus on other, more important things. As a man, I take Kyrie’s word for this. His actions the past week have obviously shown that when he goes to political events instead of games, you should as well.
There isn’t a doubt in my mind that with the world we live in right now, the Brooklyn Nets didn’t look at the reality that Kyrie may be in and out of the lineup this season for personal events like this past week. He’s made it fairly clear that although he loves the game of basketball, it isn’t number one for him at this moment.
Frankly, who could blame him? It doesn’t take a political scientist to analyze the present political and social climate for us to realize there’s a ton of stuff going on that matters a heck of a lot more than basketball.
Here’s the thing though, for a guy who already is a major injury risk and isn’t reliable in that respect, if this week is going to prove the Nets can’t rely on him for off-the-court stuff as well then that’s a problem. As impactful as his work is and as understandable as it may be that he may want to be somewhere other than a court, Sean Marks and the Nets front office are concerned with winning a championship this season.
Kevin Durant is 31 years old and looks at minimum, 95% of the player I and many others thought was the best in the world when he got hurt. For a player in his thirties with obvious injury issues and only one year after this one guaranteed on his contract, the time is now for Brooklyn.
You can say a lot of things about Harden but what you can’t question is he’s there every night and he’s going to be a perennial MVP candidate when he does it. With worries about Kyrie’s commitment to the organization and Durant’s potential injury risks, it’s pretty clear the Nets weighed those two things and realized the time is now and Harden is better than Jarrett Allen and Caris Levert when it comes to winning a title.
Now you can question the defensive side of this team and maybe how the chemistry will work offensively assuming Kyrie comes back. What you can’t though is that Kyrie just isn’t reliable enough to be a second-best player on a title team right now and that’s what the Nets want to be.
I wish Kyrie nothing but the best in his work off the court and hope he can find it in his heart to play again because he really is a true basketball marvel to watch. However, I can’t blame the Nets for wondering if in the Eastern Conference Finals against say the Milwaukee Bucks if he’ll be there or not.
There are only so many great Durant years left and they feel Harden will help maximize this one. Whether it’ll be worth it, in the long run, is another topic entirely.
What isn’t and needs to be recognized by Kyrie himself if this is going to work, is he caused them to pull the trigger on this trade for better or worse.