Uncle Drew can do a lot of things in his old age: dribble around opponents, take it the hole and dunk, and emphasize how this game has always been about buckets.
But the one thing he doesn’t have? The vaccine.
Uncle Drew, AKA Kyrie Irving, still hasn’t been vaccinated for the COVID-19 virus. Because of this, Kyrie can’t participate in any regular season games in the state of New York.
Can you imagine what Nets general manager Sean Marks is thinking right now? He has one of the best (if not the best) point guards in the NBA at creating his own shot. Now, this is a free country. And Irving has every right to not get the vaccine. But on the surface, it seems like a very selfish move, especially for a Nets team who could be unstoppable whenever Irving-James Harden-and Kevin Durant are the trifecta on the court.
So now Marks has to consider the best alternative for the Nets. Should they keep Irving and deal with the constant media circus that comes with having Kyrie on the roster? Or should Brooklyn trade Kyre, even if that means trading him for 75 cents on the dollar?
And with Omicron rearing its ugly head at NBA players and creating COVID-19 health protocols, the virus is clearly very contagious. Just look at the Nets for example. As recently as Christmas Day, the Nets had 10 players in COVID-19 health protocols, which includes Irving, Durant, and LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldride sometimes starts in the frontcourt for the Nets, so Brooklyn was essentially missing 3 starters on December 25th due to Omicron.
Omicron is clearly very contagious, and with Irving not having a single Phizer or Moderna shot, there’s a good chance that Irving could spread the virus back to his teammates. And since Irving can’t even play in some of these games even if he’s NOT in the Coronavirus contact tracing protocol, he’s basically more of a liability than an asset.
The issue is no team wants to deal with this constant Irvnig COVID circus, including the Nets. Irving is a borderline Hall of Famer once he retires. But his crazy big contract, as well as his off-the-court problems, can force teams to avoid trading for this potential locker room cancer. Even before COVID, Irving was a terrible leader once he got traded to the Boston Celtics.
And since joining the Nets, Irving has been anything but a saint. Since becoming a resident of New York City, Irving has missed games voluntarily due to several reasons. One of them was for Black Lives Matter and rejecting the 2020 NBA Bubble. Before the vaccine became available to people below the age of 50, he was STILL refusing to wear a mask at public gatherings.
Irving clearly doesn’t understand the seriousness of COVID. Everybody has their opinions on the vaccine, but he was against wearing masks even before the vaccine was allowed for public injection. Still, he’s under contract, and as long as he doesn’t retire or commit any illegal acts, it’s going to be hard for the Nets to sue for breach of contract. If the Nets determine they’re in salary cap hell (which they are) and think that they would be a better team without Kyrie, it might be time to trade the former All-Star point guard versus keeping him.
Are there any takers for Kyrie? Possibly, but there hasn’t been any serious trade talks. Another issue for the Nets is Kyrie loves playing in the Big Apple. I don’t really blame him, and according to Nick Wright from Fox Sports One, he would rather retire than play for another team.
No team would trade for Kyrie if he immediately retires. However, mindsets can change, and with the Bulls and Bucks playing some very good basketball as of late, there are no guarantees the Nets even make it to the NBA Finals. Durant and Harden aren’t getting any younger, so Irving has to be a little open minded to the idea of a trade. He would also get to be the No. 2 scoring option again, a role he thrived at during his glory years with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The most recent trade rumor was the Dallas Mavericks, but according to Marc Stein, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban adamantly denies pursuing the Nets starting point guard. And for good reason. Luka Doncic (LEW-kuh DAWN-chitch) loves playing point guard, and Kyrie is probably too small to play shooting guard. The Mavs would have to have two ball-dominant guards in their backcourt, and as we saw in Houston with James Harden and Russell Westbrook, that strategy is usually doomed to fail. Even when Chris Paul was in Houston, that marriage with The Beard became a divorce in less than 5 seasons.
What’s really interesting is as recently as a couple of months ago, Philadelphia was rumored to be a good fit to trade for Irving. However, the Nets don’t want to trade him within the division because the whole point is to get to the NBA Finals. The 76ers are of course in the Eastern Conference and could be a major roadblock in their path to a championship. Also, teams don’t like trading away marquee players in the same conference, much less the same division. Ergo, the Nets don’t want to play against Irving in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
However, the anonymous NBA executive said Philadelphia would make sense if the Nets see any value in Ben Simmons. My take would be to avoid Simmons with a ten-foot pole, especially if the trade involves Irving. Kyrie Irving has his off-the-court issues and major personality question marks, but he’s still a player who can average 50-40-90 shooting percentage numbers. A 50-40-90 season means you shoot at least 50% from two-point land, 40% from beyond the arc, and 90% from the free-throw line.
Simmons is so bad offensively that he shys away from open dunks. I hate to use the word “The yips”, but something clearly wasn’t right for him during last year’s playoffs. He hasn’t played a single game this season due to his unwavering stance on not wanting to play another possession with the 76ers. As such, his trade value is at an all-time low.
Also, the Nets have Patty Mills as their current starting point guard, and Mills is a former NBA champion with the San Antonio Spurs. Legendary Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is a big fan of his former point guard, so there’s no doubt he can run the Nets offense whenever Kyrie can’t play due to COVID protocol or injury.
Simmons just isn’t a necessary key to success for the Nets. In fact, whenever Aldridge plays or starts with the Nets, they have three players on the court with a Player Efficiency Rating of 20 or better. Aldridge has a better PER this season than Harden. That’s important because it shows the Nets they don’t necessarily need Irving, Simmons or any other flashy point guard when Harde-Durant-and Aldridge are all healthy. They just need a competent guy who can run the 1-position with grace and professionalism. Patty Mills fills that role just fine.
However, the Nets might still need some extra firepower in the playoffs, and it would be nice to see if their former investment in Kyrie can lead to an NBA championship. Is there really a point in trading the former No. 1 overall draft pick if you get nothing of value back for him? A Simmons-for-Irving trade would basically just be about starting over and getting a player who can pass better and comes with less baggage. Unfortunately, Simmons comes with his fair share of baggage, and he can’t even shoot mid-range jumpers or free-throws.
Dallas would make a lot more sense for the Nets than Philadelphia. Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic could co-exist in the backcourt. Do the Nets even want Kristaps Porzingis since they already have Aldridge and Blake Griffin? It’s hard to say.
The good news for Brooklyn is he has a player option going into next season. This just means if things go sour in Brooklyn and he doesn’t like head coach Steve Nash or his role in the offense, he could reject $36 million and sign elsewhere for the 2022-2023 season. Would he really deny $36 million when his goal was to play with Durant? Things can certainly change for Irving’s overall happiness if the Nets get eliminated in the Eastern Conference finals.
There just aren’t a lot of legitimate contenders who need Irving’s services, are willing to take on his contract, and can handle his lackluster defense. We’ve already mentioned Dallas before. The other two franchises who come to mind make sense, but it’s hard to say if Irving would enjoy playing in a mid-major market.
The Utah Jazz were so close last season to competing for a championship. One of the main reasons they fell short against the LA Clippers was a lack of explosion on the offensive end. Irving would solve that almost immediately since he’s great at creating his own shot and driving to the rim. Once again though, would he be happy playing in Utah? The Jazz also had some defensive struggles during last season’s playoffs, something that Irving wouldn’t fix.
If the Jazz want to go all-in and compete with the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference, Irving would give them a much better chance in doing so than with Mike Conley manning the point. Conley is a solid leader and point guard, but when push came to shove, the Jazz could not consistently compete against Paul George, Kawhi Leonard (kuh-WHY LEONARD), and the Clippers
The Jazz would make the most sense for a trade. If Irving would only be happy in a major market, the Clippers come to mind as Irving would definitely be a better option at point guard than Reggie Jackson. However, the Clips don’t have as many trade pieces as the Jazz do.
The Nuggets are a very interesting trade destination if Kyrie would love to play with the reigning MVP. According to Nuggets head coach Michael Malone, Jamal Murray won’t be back by February. However, the Nets don’t really care too much about the regular season. As long as Murray can be healthy and available for the playoffs, they could get a younger player who can be just as explosive as Kyrie with less off-the-court baggage. Assuming Murray can rehab from his ACL injury in flying colors.
The Nuggets might be willing to consider moving on from Jamal Murray if Kyrie passes a physical and his knees are determined to be in great shape. The Nuggets don’t want to waste Nikola Jokic’s (nih-koh-luh YOH-kitch’s) prime, and the Denver Post acknowledges that Denver wants an upgrade at the wing anyway.
The Nuggets need to win games now due to their mediocre record, and there’s no guarantee that Murray will be the same player coming off his ACL injury and subsequent rehabilitation. Brooklyn knows this, but they could also use a fresh start from the Uncle Drew anti-vaccine drama. The Nets have enough offense with Harden and Durant. They might just need to move on from Irving to create a more stable locker room.
Regardless, it’s going to be hard for the Nets to move him. Besides his huge contract, some of his former assistant coaches admit that Kyrie Irving is a wildcard. On bad days, Irving wouldn’t talk to anyone and would go off script from some of the normal defensive schemes and the offensive play calls. In essence, the coaching staff don’t know which version of Irving will enter the gym.
Some coaches would avoid a wildcard persona like Irving. Other teams might be desperate enough to take on Irving’s contract, especially if his agents tell them he would be interested in opting out and testing the free agent market. Trading for Kyrie could be advantageous if you’re close to winning a championship, but your current roster isn’t enough to do so. The Nets would prefer to trade to a Western Conference team, so teams like Utah, Denver, and Los Angeles at least make some sense. And if you only have Irving for one season, his no vaccination status would only be a slight distraction for that one season.
But what do you think? Should the Nets try to aggressively Irving or see if they can win a championship this summer? Make sure to comment your thoughts below and subscribe to Sports Broadcast Solutions.