Kyrie Irving’s Nets free agency gamble could cost him Kevin Durant

Kyrie Irving motions, we react.

Luckily, we’re not the Brooklyn Nets, the franchise that couldn’t predict all the circumstances over the last two years but had to know something would happen.

Somehow, they believed with Kevin Durant and the backdrop of his hometown New York area that Irving could be happy — or at least smother him with enough TLC to prevent this very situation.

They defended him, made excuses for him and when he came to finally holding him accountable, he wants to take his ball and go home, or anywhere besides Barclays Center.

One thing Irving has always had correct, whether it’s the inane or spectacular, he’s spellbinding. He commands as much attention when he’s being entertaining as he does when he’s pulling stunts behind the scenes.

The latest one, an issue his third eye apparently couldn’t see coming, revolves around the Nets not willing to give him a fully guaranteed max contract that will take him into his mid-30s. He’s threatening to take his part-time services elsewhere while wanting full-time prices.

Let’s see, a talented but injury-prone point-ish guard who, at a moment’s notice, will refuse to show up for practices or games, leaving his coaches and teammates to twist in the wind, is upset his current employer considers him unreliable?

Perhaps he was lulled into a false sense of security by all of the public displays of support from Sean Marks, Steve Nash and Durant. But they were soon to learn what the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers figured out the hard way: There’s no making him happy.

It’s impossible.

A frustrated Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets during the first quarter of Round 1 Game 2 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs against the Boston Celtics at the TD Garden on April 20, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Kyrie Irving will never be happy, whether or not he gets his preferred contract extension from the Brooklyn Nets. (Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images)

Now, Irving wasn’t presented with the perfect situations in Cleveland, when he first got there and even after LeBron James made his return to Northeast Ohio. Irving wanted his voice to be loudest, to matter the most—both inside the locker room and to the general public.

But he never took, and he frustrated him, naturally.

Going to Boston and having to lead a group of youngsters wasn’t the ideal situation either, and although he initially promised the fan base he would re-sign, he and Durant cooked up an idea to play together — not wholly original given the last decade or so.

He wasn’t equipped to lead, his intentions weren’t backed by effective methods, but in his rightest of minds probably felt the lessons learned along the way would help him in Brooklyn.

But the world went haywire and the NBA needed rules and structure to keep this money train moving.

Irving and structure don’t mix, as he only seems to function in anarchy. He’s missed more games than he’s played for Brooklyn, and a participant in just one playoff series win for his troubles.

Irving’s guided by his own principles, whatever they are at the moment. At times, he can seem sincere, like reconnecting with a long-lost relative you’ve had so much love for. In the next breath, he says and does something that has you remembering why there was so much distance in the first place.

No one situation is unforgivable on its own, even though his refusal to be vaccinated caused a domino effect that ended in a four-game sweep at the hands of the once-young Celtics.

Every micro step creates the macro staircase, and at the end of it, it ain’t a stairway to NBA heaven.

Why is it always him? And always something that gets in the way of him merely going out and performing his god-given, personally honed ability to play this game?

He’s easier to defend on the floor than off, and at his best in between those four lines, he’s unguardable. But therein lies the corner the Nets willingly backed themselves into.

Irving’s talent was always worth more to them than even other franchises considering they needed a foothold in the New York area, and the league at large. Durant and Irving gave a black-and-white franchise a little color, and the Nets had to give them some leeway.

Irving colors outside the lines and tested the infrastructure that was still building. His influence was always positioned next to Durant as opposed to his own value, the value his talent demanded but his resume never seemed to display.

He wanted all the spoils of being the franchise guy, but never put in the necessary sweat equity, more tell than show. Perhaps his vulnerability earned some grace in moments, but that doesn’t mean one is fit to lead.

Anarchy isn’t logical, and neither are salary demands.

If Irving was a player to lift all tides, if he was one whose mother presence inspired teammates to play with him and for him, he wouldn’t just have the Brooklyn Nets as realistic suitors, but every team without an All-NBA point guard .

He’s not a loser, but there’s a question about how much he singularly affects winning. He can be the perfect complement in the perfect situation, but those circumstances don’t present themselves except for seismic changes in a landscape.

And the NBA’s tectonic plate doesn’t have room for another at the moment.

He’s not trustworthy on a number of levels, and deep down, he knows this.

He’s daring the Nets to let him test the free-agent market, and the Nets know he doesn’t want to leave Durant.

If he were to leave, there’s no franchise that could absorb both Irving and Durant, so he’d be leaving his friend with very little chance of reuniting. He wants to stay, but stay on his terms with the money and perceived influence that comes with it.

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets look on in the final seconds of their 109-103 loss against the Boston Celtics during Game Three of the Eastern Conference First Round NBA Playoffs at Barclays Center on April 23, 2022 in New York City.

Are Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving really willing to walk away from the Brooklyn Nets and each other? (Al Bello/Getty Images).

Irving probably has more influence on driving the conversation in the NBA than he practically does in the building he appears at every once in a while. An incentive-laden contract goes against his sensibilities because, in the greatest show of self-awareness he could display, he knows he won’t be around all the time.

It’ll be something — a birthday, an anniversary, a full moon, an eclipse — that will prevent him from clocking into work that day or that week.

Accepting a contingent deal wouldn’t set an unattractive precedent for the future any more than this whole fiasco reflects on NBA players as a whole, with CBA talks forthcoming.

Irving is one of one, in every possible way.

Saying Irving “means well” was always the fallback, because he was a young man trying to find his way in an environment that only has room for but so much mercy.

At some point, though, it can’t be everybody else’s fault, it can’t be just about intentions or special circumstances.

At some point, professionals have to be professionals.

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