Brooklyn Nets All-Star guard Kyrie Irving is an amazing basketball player, there's no debating that. On any given night, Irving is capable of scoring 50 points and putting on an absolute show while looking like the best player in the entire NBA. However, he is also notoriously mercurial, a trait that has negatively impacted his previous stays with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics. It is also that trait that reportedly has some Brooklyn officials feeling uneasy.
Irving's moodiness has already reared its head since he signed with the Nets, and that fact has caused concern in Brooklyn's front office, according to a report from ESPN's Jackie MacMullen. The Nets made a significant financial commitment to Irving over the offseason, and there are organization-wide expectations that he will ultimately help lead the team to the title. But, uneven behavior from a leader isn't necessarily great for team culture.
Yet Irving's infamous mood swings, confirmed by his ex-teammates, which followed him from Cleveland to Boston to Brooklyn, are the unspoken concern that makes Nets officials 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, K.D. says he will be hands off.
There has already been leeway to allow Irving to march to his own drum. The Nets are willing to look past moments like the photo shoot at the Pearl TV Tower in China, when Irving refused to remove his hat and instructed them to photoshop it out. They will focus more on the bigger issue of sharing the ball and maintaining good team chemistry.
Irving signed in Brooklyn along with Kevin Durant -- a player he respects and views as a friend -- and the hope in the Nets' front office is that Durant, who is sidelined for the season due to the Achilles injury that he suffered in the NBA Finals as a member of the Golden State Warriors, will help to keep Irving on the straight and narrow. However, Durant plans to employ a hands-off approach, confident that Irving will consistently take care of business when he is out on the floor.
"I look at Kyrie as somebody who is an artist," Durant said. "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 ... Now, it might not be how other people want him to care about it. He has his way of doing things. I respect who he is and what he does. He has all the intangibles you want in a teammate and a great player. So, how he gets to the point to be ready for 7:30 every night, I'm supporting him 100 percent."
Irving definitely beats to the sound of his own drum, and considering how much the Nets have invested in him, their concerns are legitimate, especially after the struggles that Irving experienced in Boston. Durant's presence should help mollify things, though. By bringing him in too, the Nets assured that Irving wouldn't be the sole face of the franchise like he was with the Celtics. Last time Irving was paired with another superstar-level player capable of sharing the burden of team leadership, things worked out pretty well, as he and LeBron James led the Cavaliers to the franchise's first NBA title in 2016. The Nets are clearly hoping that a similar dynamic between Irving and Durant will beget similar success in Brooklyn.