Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Kyrie Irving's mood swing a concern for the Nets, despite his strong season start

If you are thinking that this piece on Kyrie Irving and the Nets is a total bashing of the former Celtics point guard, read elsewhere. As I have previously written, I agree with him and that the blame for the disappointing 2018-19 season should be shared by many within the organization.

Any player of Irving's All-Star level that leaves Boston of their own volition will always be scourged by fans for decades. But the rumblings surrounding Irving's mood swings in Brooklyn have already started according to ESPN's Jackie MacMullan and frankly I am not surprised. It all started this past summer, as the former 2016 NBA champion officially took his talents to New York to join free agents Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan.

While the Nets were excited to announce their trio of free agency signings, they were many sightings of the three new teammates working out at a Los Angeles middle school throughout the months of July and August. The three wanted to learn each other's habits and form on court chemistry as quickly as possible.

MacMullan reports that the Nets sent its performance team to Santa Monica, California for their annual two-day minicamp with players on the roster to, among many other things, collect biometric data through wearables. Irving, who for as long as he's been in the NBA, has had his own performance specialist in Robin Pound, didn't like the idea. While the Nets asked him to participate, Irving refused by saying "I'm not doing it."

When a player who performs at Irving's sky-high level, accolades have to be given to his training crew, and it may be understandable why he refused to participate in the two-week stint with the Nets performance team. Still, he was with a new team, and it may have been in everybody's best interests for him to give it a shot. But it doesn't end there. Irving, who has been known to get into funks and shutting down in the past and it seems that it's already becoming somewhat of a concern for the Nets.

Irving's documented mood swings, which ex-teammates from the Cavaliers and the Celtics have spoken about, have apparently followed him to Brooklyn and have made the Nets front office feel "queasy."
"When Irving lapses into these funks, he often shuts down, unwilling to communicate with the coaching staff, front office and sometimes, even his teammates. Nets team sources say one such episode occurred during Brooklyn's trip to China, leaving everyone scratching their heads as to what precipitated it. There's hope that Durant will be able to coax his friend into a better frame of mind. But when presented with that scenario, KD says he will be hands off.
"I look at Kyrie as somebody who is an artist," Durant says. "You have to leave him alone. You know what he'll bring to the table every night because he cares so much about the game." [ESPN
As MacMullan put it: "There has already been leeway to allow Irving to march to his own drum," but I doubt the leash will get very long. No team, especially one trying to build championship tendencies, can let a player be the main focus, as opposed to the team, coaches and front office - although that seems to happen in today's NBA.

When it comes to Irving and now his third roster in two years, I'm reminded of a quote by a famous poet Henry David Thoreau, as it pertains to wanting to accomplish goals in your own way.
"If a man loses pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured, or far away."
So it appears that Irving is once again marching to his own drumbeat, which many around him don't hear - or even wish to.  After three games this season he's averaging 37.7 points on 46 percent shooting (41 percent from behind the arc and 93 percent from the free throw line), 5.7 rebounds, 6.3 assists, 1.7 steals in 34.6 minutes.

Fantastic stats, but the Nets are 1-2 and sit tenth in the Eastern Conference. Irving is an absolute superstar - a unique player that doesn't seem to think like the rest of humanity. Still, little of value is accomplished without innovative thought and action. Irving once again has the innovative thinking, refusing to join the herd and may be causing disruption within the Nets fold three games into the 2019-20 campaign.

Irving's drumbeat is the same as it was in Boston - and he may be losing pace with yet another team. Soon enough the greener pastures may begin to lose some of its luster out in Brooklyn.

Tom Lane

Photo used is courtesy of CBS Sports

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