The Kyrie Irving era in Brooklyn is underway and it is not off to a positive start. The Nets announced on Wednesday that Irving suffered a "left side facial fracture" and is listed as day-to-day. While Irving should be ready before the regular starts, he is going to be under a microsope unlike ever before as he settles himself into New York City.
Joining SI's Chris Mannix on the Crossover podcast this week is Sports Illustrated NBA editors Matt Dollinger and DeAntae Prince. The trio discuss expectations for Kyrie in year one in Brooklyn, his leadership skills and more.
(Listen to the latest Crossover podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Chris Mannix: Let’s talk basketball. Kyrie Irving n Brooklyn in year one is not off to a great start. We learned on Wednesday that Kyrie has a broken face. He is day-to-day right now because something happened during a scrimmage. There is a lot of pressure this season on Kyrie Irving. I was talking to a scout recently and he said for the first three months of the season, whenever you are writing about Kyrie Irving you are going to be writing about what Boston is doing without Kyrie Irving. This scout told me that Kyrie has gotten to the point where we almost forget that he was the guy that made that huge shot in the Finals. He has now become sort of this toxic player that derailed everything Boston was trying to do last year. I will put this to you guys, and DeAntae I will start with you. How much pressure is on Kyrie Irving this season? What are expectations for him this season?
DeAntae Prince: The initial pressure in leaving LeBron was always to show that he can win on his own. I think that was pressure that he welcomed at the time but after going to Boston and having leadership issues—there was certainly going to be a magnifying glass on that. I think his playing style to me is the one thing that is going to become debated a lot more throughout this season and when he plays with KD. I think as fans, we like to see him dribble 15 times but for the guys that are on the court with him, I don’t think that is a lot of fun. I can see that becoming an issue in locker rooms. I don’t think it is always about his leadership style. It is sometimes about his playing style as well and I think over the next couple years, we will learn whether he can actually continue to play that way and win.
Mannix: Matt what do you think?
Matt Dollinger: As much as the basketball is going to be tough for him, the pressure is going to be on media wise for him. I would say and I think most people would agree, Kyrie did not do well with the media last season. It did not go well. He said a lot of things and he a lot of weird press and it was a big distraction. How is it going to be in New York this year? The Knicks are not going to matter and everyone is going to focus on Kyrie. We all know Kevin Durant is not playing this season, so Kyrie is going to be under a microscope unlike he has never been before.
I think it would be even harsher in Brooklyn than it was in Boston. And I think if D’Angelo Russell gets off to a strong start in Golden State, everyone is going to point to that and be like ‘well they let that guy walk away.’ I can already hear it on the radio. Basketball wise, I don’t see it as being as big of an issue in terms of his play and what he has to do for the Nets this year. I don’t see them taking a big leap forward no matter what. I think it would be a success to tread water more or less on what was a really productive year last season.
I am worried about him when it comes to the injuries and when it comes to the quotes and just the narrative. I thinkt he narrative can get out of hand.
Mannix: I don’t there is going to be as much pressure on him this season as it was last season in Boston. Just because the Celtics were like five minutes from going to the Finals last year and they add Kyrie and a broken down Gordon Hayward and they wound up being significantly worse. A lot of had to with Kyrie. This year, I think they have to at least match what they did last year—finish in that five or sixth seed range and Kyrie is going to need to have a great year.
From a purely basketball perspective, he had one of or if not the best season of his career last year. He played really good basketball statically, he just didn’t fit into what Boston was trying to do. I think as long as they tread water and get back to that position, I think they will be okay. I think the big question is what kind of impact will he have on the Nets young players? Because they are in a way Boston-lite. They have Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, Jarrett Allen, Spencer Dinwiddie and a bunch of young guys there that Kyrie is going to have to take a leadership role with both on the court and off of it. And if it turns out to be like Boston 2.0 where Jaylen Brown didn’t like playing him, Jayson Tatum kind of stalled in his second year in the league because of the positions he had to play in because of Kyrie Irving. That is going to reflect poorly on him.
They are not a championship team next year. Sean Marks came out and finally confirmed that Kevin Durant is not going to play this season. So it’s not really until 2020-21 until we start putting real expectations this team. I am curious to see how Kyrie adjusts to playing with this group of young players because it didn’t go well with the young players in Boston.