We have plenty of ways to show the Brooklyn Nets’ season hasn’t gone according to plan this year — most notably they’re currently sitting at home despite employing Kevin Durant — but an assistant coach, who uses ESPN to announce that he stops, and then Kyrie calls Irving is pretty graphic.
Former NBA All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire has spent the last two seasons as an assistant on the coaching staff of former teammate Steve Nash. During a series of appearances on ESPN on Thursday, he announced he would not be returning to Brooklyn after a disappointing second straight playoff elimination.
And then Stoudemire started talking all about Kyrie Irving.
In a discussion with Stephen A. Smith on “First Take,” Stoudemire openly acknowledged that Irving’s missing much of the season because he refused to be vaccinated was hampering the Nets’ ability to form a functioning team:
“Yes, I think it hurt us. It definitely hurt us because we didn’t have enough consistency with Kyrie to build chemistry with the team for the group. He only plays away games depending on the city, can’t play in New York, so there are different lineups and different matchups depending on the schedule.
“So it was difficult for us coaches to figure out who’s going to play despite Kyrie. The chemistry isn’t what we’d like so it was difficult for us to manage. So yeah, it was definitely a part.” of that.”
Irving’s status in Brooklyn has been an active topic of discussion since the Nets were eliminated by the Boston Celtics in the first round.
The team had many problems – age, coaching and a lack of Ben Simmons – but general manager Sean Marks specifically said the team needed players who were “available” in a new post-series conference. Stoudemire apparently agrees and it’s hard to imagine him alone in the Nets organization.
Meanwhile, Irving, who has a player option for next season, said he looks forward to continuing to lead the organization alongside Durant, Marks and team owner Joseph Tsai.
While discussing “Get Up” with Max Kellerman and Jalen Rose, Stoudemire applauded Marks for trying to take control of the situation:
“I think Sean Marks is doing a great job trying to put power back into his hands and making sure he has the situation under control. But I think with Kevin and Ky he really needs to sit down. Because Kyrie has missed more games than he has played since signing with the Nets.
“So I think you need to have the conversation. Two of your star players have to sit in a room and say, ‘Kyrie, what’s your goal? You want to be the best player in the game? Do you want to achieve more? this league? What are your goals for the future?’ And if they both understand, ‘hey, we want to make this thing special, want to win a league’ and he commits to playing in those games, then I think you’ll bring him back.”
While blunt about the issues between Irving and the Nets, Stoudemire fired back when Smith argued the team needed to get rid of either Nash or the point guard. He even claimed Irving was a nudge of the NBA 75th Anniversary team, which is a case for another day:
“I don’t agree with that. I think Steve and Kyrie can both figure it out. I think Kyrie needs to commit to himself and to the game of basketball. how committed he is to being a great player because I think Kyrie should have been on the top 75 list. But at the same time you have to take that as a motivation to go into the next season and prove to yourself that you’re a top player and do that consistently throughout the season. “
We’ll see if Irving and Nash make it in the end, or if the point guard ever gets the message.