After trade demand, media bash Kyrie Irving but silent on management

After trade demand, media bash Kyrie Irving but silent on management

Kyrie Irving, who was just named an All-Star starter for the Eastern Conference, shocked the NBA world this week when he reportedly asked for a trade. He informed the Nets that he prefers to be traded ahead of the Feb. 9 deadline or he will plan to leave via free agency in July, causing Brooklyn to lose him for nothing. 

This trade demand was reportedly prompted by the fact that the two sides were unable to agree to the terms of a contract extension. 

The Nets reportedly offered an extension to Irving; however, it included unprecedented “guarantee stipulations” tied to the team winning an NBA championship, according to Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report. This appeared to offend Irving and his camp, thus resulting in the trade demand. 

This trade demand has been met with much criticism throughout the entire NBA world. 

While discussing Irving’s trade request with Malika Andrews on NBA Today, Stephen A. Smith called Kyrie “idiotic” and added that “he cannot be trusted; he just reminded the basketball world of that.”

Kendrick Perkins went on a tirade on ESPN when asked about the situation.

“This is Kyrie Irving, a guy that you cannot trust,” Perkins said. “Didn’t Kyrie Irving just say that Kevin Durant was his best friend? Right? So where is the loyalty? Right? If that’s your best friend, I don’t want that. Give me an enemy. For the simple fact that when you look at how Kevin Durant has been riding for Kyrie Irving since they arrived in Brooklyn… standing behind him through whatever his beliefs were, whatever he was doing, riding with him over James Harden.”

I caught up with Caleb from Brooklyn Netcast, a site dedicated to covering the Nets, to discuss this situation, how the Nets handled this, the media backlash toward Kyrie and much more.

Etan Thomas: I appreciate your content. I was one of the former players who retweeted your tweets after this story broke. You all do a great job of covering the Nets. To your knowledge, can you explain what exactly led to this trade request from Kyrie irving? 

Brooklyn Netcast: I think it’s more of a leverage move than anything. Mostly what led up to it were disagreements in the contract extension and certain details not being agreed upon as well as guaranteed money being a big issue in this whole thing. Chris Haynes reported yesterday about how there was a championship stipulation — like if you win a championship, then you receive X amount of dollars — and that’s really where the disagreements and feeling of disrespect came. I definitely don’t think there is a shared respect overall between Joe Tsai and Kyrie Irving and [there are] ethical disagreements, which is another huge issue that is being glossed over, as a point of contention between the two. 

Etan: A few months ago, Joe Tsai and Kyrie Irving had the sit down and Tsai came out publicly and said, “No, Kyrie is not anti-semetic, he’s not a horrible person, etc.” But do you think there was still friction between the two behind closed doors and that statement was mostly for show?

Brooklyn Netcast: There is definitely quite a bit of friction behind the scenes. I would say that it’s a bit for show. I do believe that Joe Tsai and Adam Silver were both 100% correct when they said that Kyrie was not anti-semitic, but there is definitely a lot of friction that still exists between the two as far as values, who they are as people and, of course, the contract. 

Etan: It was reported that the Nets wanted Irving’s contract to be tied to winning a championship, and I don’t know if I’ve ever really heard a stipulation like that before in an NBA contract. So, he will only get X amount of money if they win a championship? To my knowledge, that’s really unprecedented.

Brooklyn Netcast: I haven’t seen any specifics, but just seen reports that this was a point of contention for Kyrie and his team. There are leaks coming from both sides and it’s hard to see the exact details of what exactly was disagreed upon because there are so many different leaks and takes. But it is clear that it does center around guaranteed money and that a championship would bring a substantial amount of money into the picture, and that’s not something that Kyrie or his representatives feel is fair because a championship is a team achievement. Hypothetically, Kyrie could average 40, 5 and 5, but if they lose in the playoffs, then he wouldn’t receive whatever amount of his contract? I don’t see how any player would agree to something like that. 

Etan: One of the tweets that I retweeted from Brooklyn Netcast, and again you all have done a great job in covering this, was: “The annoying part too is the media is just gonna paint Kyrie Irving as the bad guy here while Marks and Tsai don’t get trashed at all.” And that’s exactly what happened.

Brooklyn Netcast: It’s important to note that Kyrie has had some things happen off the court in the past; you can go into the whole documentary thing and missing time throughout the years, so there is already a lot stacked against him and who he is. I think it’s abundantly clear right now that Kyrie Irving is a very good person, and a charitable and giving human being, but for some reason the media as a whole consistently ridicules and demonizes Kyrie. But they don’t even loosely examine or question the character of someone like Joe Tsai. They would rather attack Kyrie’s character, but that shows the bias of many in the media. 

And the media only tells one side of the story. They focused on, “Oh, Kyrie requested a trade,” or, “Kyrie wants out,” or, “Kyrie is abandoning KD,” or, “He said he would never leave his friend,” and they frame it as if it’s all Kyrie’s fault. But they won’t go into the details of the insulting championship stipulation the Nets put in the contract. 

Etan: Stephen A. Smith jumped out and his response to Kyrie requesting a trade was that he is “idiotic” and “cannot be trusted” and that he “reminded the entire basketball world of that.” I responded:

And that’s how I look at this situation. It’s just business. It’s not Kyrie being a “diva,” which many have called him, or him being “idiotic.” They didn’t want to give him the number that he felt he had earned as an All-Star, and they added stipulations that he wasn’t happy with such as the championship stipulation — which, again, I don’t recall ever being done in the NBA — so he wanted to look for other options. But the media, people like Stephen A. Smith for example, immediately went to bashing Kyrie before they even knew the details.

Brooklyn Netcast: I agree with everything you just said. I wasn’t surprised to hear Stephen A. Smith and Kendrick Perkins and so many others in the media jump to bash Kyrie. I know Stephen A. says that he is a fan of Kyrie’s, but there has been a consistent bashing of Kyrie that he does and it seems almost personal and definitely unprofessional. This summer, Kendrick Perkins said he would not bash Kyrie as long as he was in the media, and he went back on his word is less than a few months. Dave Portnoy, who is a member of the media, tweeted: “You can make a legit argument Kyrie is the worst pro athlete who ever lived and top 100 worst human.” 

Etan: Lou Williams responded, “Nah, we don’t agree with you,” and I retweeted that.

Brooklyn Netcast: Right! I saw that, and I’m glad Lou Williams did that. That was really a disgusting tweet. Requesting a trade because of a contract dispute makes you the worst human being to ever walk the planet? And the amount of people who agreed with his asinine statement is just crazy. But yeah, that shows how Kyrie has been consistently painted as this horrible person by the media, and that’s just irresponsible. 

Etan: What are you hearing about the Brooklyn Nets and how they view Kyrie? I’m sure some of the fans are split — some love Kyrie and some hate Kyrie, some are swayed by the media and some see through how the media portrays him — but what are you hearing from the team as far as their reaction to this? And I ask because I noticed that after the recent suspension, it seemed as though the team supported him — or at least didn’t publicly bash him. I saw people in the media trying to almost coerce the players into ridiculing him. I saw them try to get Nic Claxton to say they were better off without Kyrie, and they tried to get KD to express frustration with Kyrie. It was like they went down the list, but none of them took the bait. Where do you think they are with Kyrie and if he were to come back — say they don’t trade him —would they welcome him back with open arms? 

Brooklyn Netcast: That’s tough to say. I feel like it would vary from player to player. I’m sure they understand the business aspect of this all and they don’t look at this as a personal abandonment of the team or anything like that. I do think they are all well aware that their chances of being successful greatly diminish if Kyrie is not on the floor. But at the same time, from what I’m hearing, or at least what they are expressing publicly, is that they understand that this is a business. But they know at the same time, they need him to be successful. 

Etan: I want you to expound on the media coverage of Kyrie. And of course not all media are covering him the same way, but I will say that there are quite a few in the media who are really taking turns bashing him. Do you feel that it’s a little bit unfair or unwarranted or unprofessional? (Besides Stephen A. Smith; in his case, it definitely does appear to be just that). How would you describe the majority of the media’s coverage of Irving?

Brooklyn Netcast: I think that a lot of it is personal and a lot of it is a collection of how they feel about past events, and that taints how they examine this current event. They aren’t separating the two. For example, when James Harden asked for a trade, he didn’t get bashed as heavily, and his was more of a giving up on the team. He had gained weight, was playing very bad basketball at the time and reportedly never wanted to be in Brooklyn in the first place as his first choice. Kyrie’s request was definitely covered differently, and he has a valid financial reason to want out, in my opinion at least. And there have been other players who were just disgruntled or just unhappy with the system or not [getting] enough shots or playing time who asked for a trade, and they weren’t bashed anywhere near as much as Kyrie. But like I said, a lot of that has to do with past situations that many people are lumping in with this situation, and one has nothing to do with the other. I’m hoping the media, later on after he has retired, will look back and say, “You know what, this was unfair treatment of a player and we viewed him incorrectly.”

Etan: Yeah… I would say don’t hold your breath on Stephen A. Smith or Charles Barkley ever coming to that realization.”

Brooklyn Netcast: Oh, well not those two (laughing).

Etan: Oh ok (laughing), you just mean the media as a whole.

Brooklyn Netcast: Yeah, just collectively. But no, those two are probably not going to come to any realization.

Etan: I couldn’t agree more. There is nothing wrong with having a professional critique of an athlete. I have no problem with that. But often, Stephen A. Smith’s comments about Kyrie Irving are nothing more than personal attacks and attempts to disparage his character. He lobbies for him not to be signed to a long-term deal and puts notions out there that he can’t be trusted. It comes across as a personal vendetta instead of a professional critique. And although my friend David Aldridge didn’t agree with me when I debated him and Marc Spears about the impact of what the media says, it’s been confirmed to be true.

What the media says does affect the business side for players when it’s time for teams, GMs, presidents, etc. to sign them — whether those notions are accurate or not. It’s not about “hurting a player’s feelings.” It’s about having a direct impact on their professional career. I actually interviewed a former NBA GM, Pete Babcock, who confirmed that false narratives put out by the media and Stephen A. Smith, in particular, did in fact hurt Kwame Brown financially. He discussed how NBA executives were, in fact, influenced by those narratives. 

But thanks again for your content and covering this in a way that is different than many others in the media. This was a good discussion.

Brooklyn Netcast: Thanks for having me.

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