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Kyrie Irving must set an example for the Nets

The 4:39 finale of Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals was as intense as any sport has ever seen. It was Cleveland versus Golden State inside Oakland’s raucous (and much missed) Oracle Arena.

The stakes were enormous. The defense was hellish. The pressure, even more.

That’s why no one – even a floor full of future Hall of Famers – could pull a punch.

Not LeBron James, who will miss four times. Not Stephen Curry, who also missed four. Not Klay Thompson or Kevin Love or Andre Iguodala or Draymond Green.

Only one player seemed oblivious to all of this. One of them just backed up and dumped a 3-pointer like it was a November night in Sacramento.

Kyrie Irving.

LeBron’s epic full-court chase and Iguodala layup blocking may be the lasting image of Cleveland’s historic win, but it was Irving who broke the 89-89 tie. while drilling a 25-footer with 53 seconds remaining. The Cavs would win 93-89 after James hit one of two free throws. The vaunted Warriors failed to manage a single point.

It’s possible that Irving is both one of the greatest offensive players the NBA has ever seen and one of the least self-aware. Sometimes that combination is a good thing, the thing that makes the difference and wins the title. Pressure? What pressure?

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving sits on the baseline during their NBA playoff first round series against the Boston Celtics. The Celtics swept the Nets. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Other times, well, you get Irving’s postgame comments as his Brooklyn Nets, once betting favorites to win the NBA championship, suffered a humiliating first-round sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics. Monday.

The question ahead for the Nets — and Irving — is if there’s a way to channel it all, fusing personality with talent not just in performance, but in a player who, if nothing else, is simply present in all directions.

Irving has played just 29 regular season games for the Nets this season, mostly because his decision not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine put him at odds with New York’s mandates.

It is very good. This is America, and it was his personal choice. In the end, he returned to the field on his terms, a personal victory that didn’t translate to any team results for the Nets out of the ordinary.

However, with every decision comes a reaction, which is why Irving should have seen the eye roll and the groans that followed his comments about the Nets’ current chemistry on the court and their future plans. His interviews were a window into, if not self-delusion, but how he could relate to suspicious teammates and coaches.

After Game 3, he assigned some of the blame for Brooklyn’s struggles to “guys just trying to gel. Usually you manage at the right time and this group in the other locker room [Boston] gels at the right time… For us, we are in a new experience as a group.

Well, if only there was a way, Kyrie, for the team to be full for most of the season. Irving wasn’t finished, however. After Game 4, he pledged to not only stay with the franchise, but to take part in decisions about how it should be run.

“When I say I’m here with [Kevin Durant]I think that really involves us running this franchise together alongside Joe and Sean,” Irving said.

“Joe” is Nets owner Joe Tsai. “Sean” is General Manager Sean Marks.

So, Irving is going to “manage” the organization?

Not mentioned: Coach Steve Nash.

“I think we just [have] to make some moves this offseason, really talk about it and be really intentional about what we’re building,” Irving said.

Irving is a smart guy. He gives honest answers. Apparently he means well. He’s not even wrong – every NBA team will consult star players (or even veterans) in some way when making personnel decisions.

But after relying on personal liberties all season — and essentially squandering a much-anticipated year of his heyday and Durant — it’s hard to first lament the roster’s lack of continuity as if it were fair. an inevitable reality, then to sell himself as not only committed to the franchise, but someone who should be entrusted with its “management” in the future.

The guy chose his own beliefs over showing up every night for his co-workers and, by his own admission, basically ruined the season. Now, his colleagues should believe in him?

Again, it’s Kyrie. Good and less good. He demanded a trade of Cleveland and LeBron, whose record of teams leading to the Finals is legendary, to start alone in Boston. He then declared himself “Celtic for Life” only, after just two seasons, to bail out Brooklyn and partner with Durant.

Yet in three seasons with the Nets, he played just 103 regular season games and never made it past the second round. He has rarely been a reliable, nocturnal, nocturnal guy. He’s played in 60+ games in just four of his 11 seasons. He never managed more than 54 in Brooklyn.

Part of that was injury. Part of it was a choice. All of this makes his commitment to anything seem detached from reality.

Kevin Durant looked tired and Kyrie Irving was unavailable for much of the season, leading to a first-round sweep.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images).

Kevin Durant looked tired and Kyrie Irving was unavailable for much of the season, leading to a first-round sweep. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images).

This is the future of Brooklyn. That’s what they bought. Irving is Irving. Then there’s Ben Simmons, who was acquired this season but didn’t play a game due to physical and mental health issues. Hopefully next season?

Durant, meanwhile, turns 34 in September, and while he undoubtedly remains one of the best players in the game, age, fatigue, mileage and injuries have clearly cropped up in recent years. Even stars age while still young in the NBA.

Durant looked exhausted against Boston, in part because he had to play so much in the streak (40:21 in the last eight games of the regular season) just to reach the playoffs … which goes to Irving who has missed so many games.

Whoever “manages” the networks in the future must act quickly and decisively. Maybe that includes Kyrie. If so, he can start by fully committing – physically, mentally and emotionally – to winning a title next season.

It starts with showing up to play. Like, almost every night. He considers himself a team leader. He must lead by example.

The man is extremely talented, and that talent includes floating around in situations seemingly unaware of anything going on around him.

If that can, again, be his superpower, then the disconnected comic quotes and head in the clouds comments won’t matter.

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