Around the same time the confetti was raining down on Alabama on Monday night, videos that showed Kyrie Irving, who’s missed four straight games due to undisclosed personal reasons, partying (allegedly with Drake) at a family birthday party in Toronto began circulating. ESPN is reporting that the NBA is “examining” these videos:
Irving has missed four consecutive games for personal reasons, been ruled out tonight vs. Denver and sources expect him to continue to be sidelined at least through Wednesday (Knicks) and Saturday (Orlando) games. https://t.co/cPemTB0eHi
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 12, 2021
The prevailing question will be whether those videos are recent, or if they are older and just came online now. Here is a link to one of the videos.
If these videos are real, it kind of calls to mind the scene in the The Last Dance where Dennis Rodman left the Bulls to go party in Vegas with Carmen Electra. Michael Jordan had to go looking for him to bring him back to the team. Now, there are obviously different circumstances. Foremost, the Bulls were two-time defending champions, and the Nets are on their quest for their first with this group. However, part of me wonders if Irving saw that and became emboldened by the fact that there weren’t really long-term consequences for Rodman. The Bulls knew they needed him.
Irving also saw LeBron James take two weeks off to recuperate his body in the middle of the 2014-15 season with the Cavs. Again, the circumstances are different — it wasn’t right at the beginning of the season, and we didn’t see him allegedly partying maskless in the middle of a pandemic.
None of this is to excuse Kyrie Irving’s behavior (whether or not the party is new, he did not inform Nets head coach Steve Nash about any details regarding his absence, at least in the beginning). It’s obviously unprofessional, but there’s only so many ways to say that and they’ve all been said.
Irving knows that he has leverage, just like James Harden knew that he had leverage to skip the beginning of camp to party at strip clubs. The Nets’ best chances at a title are with a motivated Irving. They knew he was mercurial when they signed him. Now, they have to hope and pray that when the time comes, he performs. But even if the Nets tire of him, there are only 30 NBA franchises and there aren’t nearly that many players as talented as he is. Eventually the time will come where his troubles outweigh his talents, but it doesn’t feel to me like we’re there yet.