If there was one word to describe Kyrie Irving, it would be: “different.” The Brooklyn Nets superstar point guard has always had a ton of attention on him ever since he started his career. When he first started out, he was the franchise player for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who had just lost LeBron James to Free Agency. That all changed when LeBron came back to the team in the Summer of 2014. The franchise’s fortunes began to change and for the first time in his career, Kyrie got to be a part of a championship-caliber team.
At first, James and Kyrie would butt heads over the direction of the team. Of course, Irving is a ball-dominant point guard while LeBron is a force who likes to take over the team he is playing for. These two styles didn’t always mesh well at times but they would always seem to find a way to make it work when push came to shove. This partnership ultimately led to three straight NBA Finals and a championship in 2016 which can mostly be credited to the clutch shot-making of Irving down the stretch. Eventually, though, Irving became visibly fed up with playing second-fiddle and was traded to the Boston Celtics where he could be a leader for a young team.
If you know anything about Irving’s career, you would know that this is where things began to go off the rails a little bit. During his time with the Celtics, things were tumultuous, to say the least. Numerous reports came out that he was a bad teammate and hard to play with both in the locker room and on the court. It seemed like every other week there was some sort of report out Boston that painted Irving in a negative light. Despite this, his first season with the team in 2017-2018 was relatively successful. The team was quite good and with a plethora of young talent, they made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. Unfortunately, Irving was injured along the way and couldn’t play in that series. The Celtics still managed to put up a fight and even forced a game 7 although they eventually lost.
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Last season, the Celtics were expected to do big things and were even a favorite to come out of the Eastern Conference. With Kyrie Irving and healthy and their young stars thriving, there was no reason why the team shouldn’t have gone far in the postseason. Unfortunately, things got very sticky as chemistry issues became apparent and the Celtics started to flounder. What should have been a lock for the NBA Finals, became a team lucky to make it out of the second round. Of course, they were bounced out of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals by the Milwaukee Bucks and that spelled the end of Kyrie in Boston.
Throughout free agency, there were plenty of rumors surrounding the star point guard. He is easily one of the best PGs in the game so when he became a free agent, many teams went after him. Reports circulated that he essentially ghosted the Celtics and went to the Brooklyn Nets before anyone could even get the chance to blink. With this move, Kyrie would be going to yet another up and coming team with an opportunity to turn them into a contender. The season began and the team started out 4-7 before he suffered a bad shoulder injury that has kept him out of the lineup ever since. In that time, reports have come out that Irving’s mood swings are starting to affect the operations of Nets executives and that his behavior is something that began while playing for the Boston Celtics. Not to mention, his bizarre social media posts addressed to Celtics fans and constant references to the Illuminati are enough to draw some suspicion.
All of this begs the question: Are Kyrie’s mood swings really that much of a big deal and is he at fault for what’s gone down with his previous teams?
The answer to this question truly depends on who you ask although you can make the case that his attitude is more of a pattern than it is an anomaly. For instance, all of Kyrie’s teammates in Boston have stated on numerous occasions that he wasn’t to blame although there were many times where they could feel like something was wrong. In a report from The Athletic’s Jay King, Marcus Smart said: “We didn’t know what his moods were and we didn’t know what Kyrie was going through. And that made it tough on us because if somebody’s going through something in their life and you don’t really know what it is, it’s kind of hard to see what’s wrong with him, it’s kind of hard to (provide) some help.” During another interview, Smart said the Celtics were all to blame for their poor play last season and that it can’t all be on Kyrie.
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Since the initial “mood swings” report back in October, Irving has received support from his teammates like Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan. Even Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson has come out in support of Kyrie. Meanwhile, the media has taken a much more dramatic approach with the point guard. For instance, Stephen A. Smith recently came out and said that Irving is already getting a “bad wrap” in Brooklyn and that things are starting to become an issue for the team. While some will deny this, Smith seems to have the inside scoop on the team and maintains that something is, indeed, wrong. With all of this evidence in mind, it seems as though we have two different sides. First, you have Kyrie’s current and former teammates who are trying to defend him. Second, you have the media who are simply reporting on what they hear from sources and executives around the league.
With that being said, the question posed above still remains unanswered. To truly understand if these mood swings are a problem, you have to look at his teams’ results. Throughout his two seasons with the Celtics, he played 127 games and the team went 78-49 which is a 61.4 percent winning percentage, according to InsideHook. In the same report, it was revealed that in games where Kyrie was not on the roster, the team went 26-15 which is actually a higher win rate. While this may be a small sample size, it’s important to note how his Celtics faired quite well without him in the lineup during the 2018 playoffs. Meanwhile, the Celtics were a chemistry disaster in the 2019 postseason and were blown out nightly by the Bucks. Celtics aside, Kyrie hasn’t made a very good case for himself in Brooklyn so far. The team started the season 4-7 and now, the team is well within the playoffs at a record of 13-11. This means the team is 9-4 without him in the lineup. If you’re Irving, this is something that probably doesn’t sit right with you.
While you can argue that the sample size is too small, it’s clearly the indication of a larger pattern at play here. At this point, reports of his mood swings are too loud to ignore, especially when you factor in how his team’s play without him. Simply put, Irving hasn’t been the difference-maker that everyone thinks he is. If it weren’t for the lackluster results on the court, his mood swings would be completely swept under the rug. However, the reality of the situation is that Irving has been constantly criticized for his abilities as a teammate and a leader. These mood swing allegations are yet another instance where Kyrie has been called out and it’s clear that his issues are starting to become his teams’ issues.