Maybe, just maybe. Some of them were “pawns.”
That’s what Kyrie Irving called “the media” before the season started, as he was coming off a failed attempt to not speak to reporters this season. Irving would eventually apologize for referring to professionals as the weakest piece on a chessboard, but feelings were hurt.
But, on some level, did Irving have a point? Because all the drama — I’ll get to that in a second — and noise that once smothered Irving suddenly disappeared when he got back on the court. Taking shots at someone when they’re down and then going silent when they’re up is a pawn-like move. Keep that same energy for the good and the bad. The naysayers were quiet again last night, as the Nets defeated the Warriors 134-117 as Irving led Brooklyn with 23 points in Kevin Durant’s first game back in Oakland.
This season has been a rollercoaster for Irving, as he’s only played 19 games so far. There was the “pawn” thing, others thought he should have been traded for James Harden, he took personal time away from the team without explaining why, then he was at his sister’s birthday party without a mask, he showed up on a Zoom call for Manhattan District Attorney candidate Tahanie Aboushi, and then we found out that Jackie MacMullan thinks he and other players are “property” of NBA teams. It got so ridiculous at one point that Stephen A. Smith said Irving should retire.
But then, Irving started hoopin’. It’s like everyone had forgotten that he’s one of the best basketball players on Earth.
Those are Irving’s scoring numbers for every game he’s played this season in Brooklyn, making him the Nets’ second-leading scorer. Irving is in the midst of the best statistical season of his career. His 27.6 points per game are a career-high. He’s shooting 95.1 percent from the free-throw line, 52.5 percent from the field, and 40.9 percent from deep. His assists and rebounds have taken a dip, but that could be due to a position change on his part.
As the NBA is still trying to force its players into playing what will be remembered as the worst and most lethargic All-Star Game of all time, Irving is still projected to be named a starter as the second round of fan votes have come in. Fans still find joy in watching the enigmatic star do his thing.
Kyrie Irving has always been “different.” It’s just who he is. And while at some point there will be more controversy due to something he did or said, it’s always funny to see how quickly the noise around him lessens as soon as he starts dribbling a basketball. Whenever drama vanishes that quickly, it usually means it was never anything to begin with.