Mannix and Beck discuss the run of coronavirus-related postponements, the NBA tightening restrictions on player movement, Kyrie Irving's absence from the Nets, if it's time for Washington to shop Bradley Beal, the Knicks recent struggles and more.
Chris Mannix: Kyrie Irving is going to miss his fourth straight game this week for personal reasons. He has not been around the team for the last four games, ESPN reported. The expectation is that Kyrie won't be with the team for the rest of the week. Meanwhile, on social media, a video has surfaced of Kyrie that appears to be him at his sister's 30th birthday party, which the NBA is now investigating as we record this. So Howard, what is your reaction to what we know about Kyrie Irving?
Now, I hesitate to attribute reasons to why he's been away from the team, there's been some reporting on Kyrie being upset about what he saw on video at the Capitol last week. Kyrie, of course, has been very invested in these types of issues. It was Kyrie who, after the killing of George Floyd was one of the strongest voices towards NBA players about not going to the bubble, but taking a stand on these social issues. So that reporting lines up with what we know about Kyrie. But Howard, at some point Kyrie is going to have to come back to play, and that video, if it's authentic and happened this week, of Kyrie without a mask at a birthday party for his sister, it's not a good look for Kyrie Irving.
Howard Beck: No, and look I want to start with this premise, Chris. We don't know for certain why Kyrie is away from the Nets right now. I know there's been some reporting and I'm not pouring cold water on any of that reporting. I'm just saying that there is no clear objective truth right now and certainly not from Kyrie himself or his agency, or his spokesperson, or anybody we don't know. And so because these are really unusual circumstances on many levels and because we have not yet heard it from him or anybody on his behalf, I'm going to be very cautious about judging what he's doing and what the purported reasons are.
Because what happens is if you take it at face value that it was about news events of last week, the cop getting to walk away free in the Jacob Blake shooting, the storming of the Capitol. If these things are weighing on Kyrie, who certainly has a political conscientiousness, and people can think of that however they want. But if those are the reasons, then yes, of course, immediately when people see him smiling and celebrating with his family and hanging out at a party, it doesn't look great. But that's making a bunch of assumptions first. It's assuming that he's away for the reasons that you've heard. I don't know Chris, I don't want to assume that. He's away for personal reasons, that's the only official reason we have been given. I'm going to withhold judgment on all of it until we know hopefully from Kyrie himself what the circumstances were.
And just because you were away for personal reasons, whatever it was, mental health break, concern over events and society at large, whatever it may be. It does not automatically negate your ability to then celebrate a birthday with your family. Also, when it comes to the COVID protocols, it's not clear yet whether or not he broke those, because we don't know from that short snippet of video whether there were more than 15 people - which is the standard the NBA is using for gatherings that are off-limits to their players. So if it was fewer than 15 people, he might be fine. And so it may not trigger anything on that level either. Yes, it's curious that he's been away as long as he has, and that he's not coming back, at least based on the reporting any time this week. I don't know what that's about Chris. I don't like speculating blindly on that stuff.
It's certainly a problem for the Nets, who obviously have the highest of expectations this season, their first season with Kyrie and KD together. They've already lost Spencer Dinwiddie for the season. They've been up and down as a team. Missing Kyrie Irving for an extended stretch for any reason is a concern. But I also think that these unusual circumstances and the lack of clarity about it presents a larger concern which is, is he still on board? And that's a natural thing to wonder. Is there something else we're missing here? Is there something else we're missing about Kyrie Irving's satisfaction or happiness with the Nets? I don't know. And again, I'm not speculating that that's the reason. I'm just saying the extended absence, without much clarity at least publicly, I think leads you to have to wonder about where this season's going for the Nets with Kyrie.
Find recent episodes on SI.com