LAYUP LINES: Kyrie Irving may have lost himself a lot of money last season
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What’s good, family. It’s your boy Sykes here to usher you into tonight’s playoff action once again. But before we get into that, a word on Kyrie Irving.
The Brooklyn Nets point guard may have lost himself a lot of money with his elongated absence this season.
fObviously, we didn’t see Irving for most of the season behind his vaccination stance. Irving refused to follow New York City’s vaccine mandate which made him ineligible to play at home games for, pretty much, the entire year.
Initially, the Nets chose to keep him inactive. Then, eventually, he became a part-time player after COVID-19’s Omicron variant ravaged Brooklyn’s roster. It wasn’t until the end of the year that he was able to finally play in home games for the Nets. In total, he played in 29 games this season out of 82. And, clearly, that had an impact on the Nets’ chemistry coming into the playoffs.
That’s a big part of the reason why the Nets are so afraid to commit to Irving long-term. Sean Marks, the Nets GM, told the media that the team isn’t yet ready to sign their point guard to a long-term extension.
Irving has a $37 million player option for next season in Brooklyn. He’ll probably be back with them next year. But after that? It’s a toss-up. Marks said the team needs “people here that want to be here,” and that seems to be a question with Irving.
That’s also part of the reason why Nike is reportedly thinking about cutting Irving’s signature shoe line as well. They still want him around, but just not as one of their stars who stand front and center.
Mostly because, well, he’s just never available.
It’s not even just last season. In total throughout the last 3 years, Irving has played 103 total games out of 226 through 3 years with the Nets. In his first season, he was hurt. And that’s not something anyone can control.
During the 2020-21 season in Brooklyn he took a mid-season break while violating the league’s health and safety protocols. He missed most of his third season because of a personal choice to be unvaccinated.
He’s making personal choices for himself and that’s totally fine. He should absolutely do that. But, clearly, those choices are coming at a cost.
And, right now, that cost appears to potentially be significant.
Some NBA goodness from around the USA TODAY Sports network.
James Harden gave us a Ben Simmons-esque offensive performance during a win-or-go-home Game 6 against the Miami Heat on Thursday. He only shot the ball twice in the second half. The only difference is he was awful defensively, too. So bad that he should probably burn the game tape.
I just don’t know how Philly can give him a max deal at this point. Our Bryan Kalbrosky has more:
“Harden finished the game with just 11 points (including none in the second half) and 4 turnovers. ESPN’s Tim Legler offered a breakdown of the poor possessions, and — oh boy — it’s nightmarish for Harden. The guard will have a contract negotiation coming up, and it’d be best if no one saw this.”
Yikes, man. These are trying times in Philadelphia.
One to Watch
(All odds via Tipico.)
Bucks (-1.5, -120) vs. Celtics +100, O/U 211.5, 7:30 PM ET
This series honestly feels like the NBA Finals. It’s an absolute slugfest. We’ve had incredibly close comebacks night after night after night and, honestly, I have no idea who to pick in this one.
But one thing has been clear: Giannis Antetokounmpo is the best player on the floor. And when he wants something done? He gets it done. So I’m not picking against Milwaukee at home tonight. Bucks -1.5 is the way to go.
Who’s in and out?
—Robert Williams (knee) is questionable for Friday night’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
—Otto Porter Jr. (foot) is questionable for Friday night’s game against the Grizzlies.
— Jimmy Butler is still mad that the 76ers didn’t bring him back and he called them out for it after eliminating them from the playoffs.
— Magic Johnson might really be a master Twitter troll because this is too coincidental.
— Everyone thinks the Lakers should trade LeBron James these days. That includes Phil Jackson.
— Joel Embiid is just as confused as the rest of us on how the 76ers let Jimmy Butler slip away.
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