ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan reported Tuesday that some within the Brooklyn Nets organization were confused by Kyrie Irving’s mood swings during the team’s preseason trip to China.
“When Irving lapses into these funks, he often shuts down, unwilling to communicate with the coaching staff, front office and, sometimes, even his teammates,” MacMullan wrote. “Nets team sources say one such episode occurred during Brooklyn’s trip to China, leaving everyone scratching their heads as to what precipitated it.”
Irving is a 6x All-Star. An NBA champion with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The first overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft after playing his one collegiate season with Coach Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. NBA superstar. One of the top point guards in the game.
Kyrie responded to the report Wednesday night after the Nets' 118-108 loss to the Indiana Pacers: “Who cares what ESPN says or what anyone says?” Irving said. “That’s gonna come with being one of the top players. History has shown you can be the best teammate ever and someone’s still gonna say something negative about what you’re doing and how you approach your life.
He went on.
“Human beings have mood swings,” he continued. “It’s OK to be human. I don’t have to be perfect for anyone here, nor do I have to be perfect for the public. So I’m not here to dispel any perception, I’m just here to be myself.”
This is going to get spun if it hasn't already. It will turn into Kyrie being a bad teammate. Critics will go back to his time in Boston and why it didn’t work out. Why he left LeBron James and a championship team with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Instead of seeing this for what it is: Irving likely has some type of mental health issues. What exactly he has is a fair question.
Let's also be clear. I'm NOT a doctor. I can't make that determination either way.
Last year, the NBA took a stand starting new mental health initiatives after NBA stars Kevin Love and Demar DeRozan spoke out on their own struggles with mental health. What a concept: maybe a player like Kyrie should actually be encouraged to pursue help. And not be stigmatized for it.
This is a hard concept for some people to understand: just because you're rich doesn’t mean your life is perfect.
Lamborghinis, gold watches, mansions and winning NBA championships can certainly help conceal and hide your issues.
They don’t make them magically disappear.
If Irving has mental health problems, giving him a check for $100 million doesn’t solve that issue. It just allows him an unhealthy way to cope with it.
I'll also let someone else make the argument that it's "better" to have mental health issues and be rich than to have those same issues and be poor. I'm NOT going there.
Any person with mental health problems can tell you this: money alone doesn’t make you happy.
Counseling, therapy, medication, etc. certainly can help. But there’s no one easy answer. Every situation is different.
The way the media and fans have handled this story is disappointing and concerning.
Instead of embracing Kyrie for having an issue, we are going to destroy him for it.
His leadership questioned. His commitment to the organization and his new Nets teammates. Trade scenarios in the NBA Trade Machine already being crafted on ESPN.com.
If you had a mental illness, how would you like it if millions of people tried to destroy your character and say you were unfit to do your job or be a leader of a team because of it? He isn’t crazy. He just needs help.
We embraced Cavaliers forward Kevin Love and San Antonio Spurs guard Demar DeRozan for speaking out on their struggles with mental health. Somehow, Kyrie doesn’t get that same praise and benefit of the doubt.
The fans, media and especially the Brooklyn Nets all need to wrap their heads around that concept. They also need to put their arms around their superstar point guard.
Thankfully, Kenny Atkinson backed his star player on Tuesday. Like any good friend or family member would do.
Teammates like Spencer Dinwiddie and DeAndre Jordan did too. And you’re damn right they should.
Kyrie Irving is a superstar talent. An NBA champion. Box office. Ice in his veins. Must watch television. He already dropped a 50 piece with his new team the Brooklyn Nets. In the first week of the season.
Like a family member who needs help, the Nets need to do the same for Kyrie. It’s like any relationship. You don’t throw your family member who needs help on the street to starve. You put your arms around them and provide support.
He’s already told us he struggled all last season in Boston overcoming the loss of his grandfather in the middle of the season.
The honeymoon is over. The Nets had their fancy media day press conference with the perfect pictures and green screens.
They’ve hit adversity. The team could be 1-4. There’s a report about your star point guard. Kevin Durant is already out for the year. He’s not coming through that entrance to save your season if it goes south.
What comes next is interesting. The life of an NBA player can be difficult. I know what you’re going to say: yeah, but hey they’re rich.
On the road 200 days a year. Away from friends and family. In hotels across the country. Extreme lack of sleep. Practice. Workout. Game. Shower. Sleep. Rinse and repeat. Autopilot.
It really feels like the Nets and the Brooklyn community will embrace Irving and everything he entails, better than the way the Celtics and Boston never really did. Hell, Brooklyn has no choice.
The Nets just need to make it through this year in time for Irving’s running mate and the undoubtedly best player on the planet Kevin Durant to walk through the entrance at Barclays Center. Take off the black blazer and into a jersey/ shorts.
Feel free to bounce on Irving for his silly flat earth theories but mental health doesn’t deserve to be scrutinized like a last-second shot decision.
Athletes are humans too. Not robots with no ability to feel. Let’s treat them the way they actually deserve.