We have plenty of ways to show the Brooklyn Nets‘ season did not go according to plan this year — chief among them they are currently sitting at home despite employing Kevin Durant — but an assistant coach using ESPN to announce he is quitting then calling out Kyrie Irving is quite illustrative.
Former NBA All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire spent the last two seasons as an assistant on former teammate Steve Nash’s coaching staff. During a series of appearances on ESPN on Thursday, he revealed he would not be returning to Brooklyn after a second straight disappointing playoff exit.
And then Stoudemire started talking about all things Kyrie Irving.
In a discussion with Stephen A. Smith on “First Take,” Stoudemire openly conceded that Irving is missing much of the season due to his refusal to get vaccinated hurt the Nets’ ability to form a functioning team:
“Yeah, I think it hurts us. It definitely hurt us because we didn’t have the consistency with Kyrie enough to build chemistry for the group with the team. He plays only on away games depending on which city it is, he ca n’t play in New York, therefore you have different lineups and different matchups depending on the game schedule.
“So it made it difficult for us coaches to figure out who’s going to play in spite of Kyrie. The chemistry is not where we would like it to be, so it was difficult for us to manage that. So yeah, it was definitely part of that.”
The team had plenty of issues — age, coaching and a lack of Ben Simmons among them—but general manager Sean Marks pointedly said the team needed players who are “available” in a post-series new conference. Stoudemire apparently agrees, and it’s hard to imagine he’s alone in the Nets organization.
Meanwhile, Irving, who holds a player option for next season, said he looked forward to continue managing the organization alongside Durant, Marks and team owner Joseph Tsai.
While speaking with Max Kellerman and Jalen Rose on “Get Up,” Stoudemire applauded Marks for trying to assert control over the situation:
“I think Sean Marks is doing a great job by trying to bring back the power to his hands and making sure he is in control of the situation. But I do think with Kevin and Ky, he needs to have a real sitdown. Because Kyrie, since he signed with the Nets, he’s missed more games than he’s played.
“So I think you have to have the conversation. Two of your star players need to sit down in a room and say, ‘Kyrie what’s your goal? You want to be the best player in the game? Do you want to accomplish more in this league? What are your goals moving forward?’ And if both understand that ‘hey, we want to make this thing special here, want to win a championship,’ and he’s committed to playing in those games, then I think you bring him back.”
While Stoudemire was blunt about the issues between Irving and the Nets, he did shoot back when Smith argued the team needs to get rid of either Nash or the point guard. He even claimed Irving was a snub from the NBA 75th Anniversary Team, which is an argument for another day:
“I don’t agree with that. I think Steve and Kyrie can both figure it out. I feel Kyrie has to make a commitment to himself and the game of basketball. on how committed he is to being a great player because I feel like Kyrie should have been on the Top 75 list. But at the same time, you have to now take that as motivation going into next season and proving to yourself that you are a top player and do it consistently throughout the season. “
We’ll see if Irving and Nash end up making it work, or if the point guard ever gets the message.