While making the rounds on ESPN’s morning talk shows on Thursday, Amar’e Stoudemire pointed to Kyrie Irving’s absence for part of the season as something that drastically hurt the Brooklyn Nets.
The comments came a day after Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks and head coach Steve Nash addressed reporters for the first time since the Nets were bounced from the playoffs in the first round. Stoudemire had been a player development assistant coach since 2020, but is not returning to that role next season.
“I think it hurt us. It definitely hurt us, because we didn’t have the consistency with Kyrie enough to build the chemistry for the group of the team,” Stoudemire said on First Take. “He plays only on away games depending on which city it is. Can’t play in New York, so therefore you have different lineups and different matchups depending on the game scheduling. So it made it difficult for us as coaches to figure out, ‘well who’s going to play in spite of Kyrie.’ The chemistry is probably not there for what we’d like it to be, so it was difficult to manage that.”
Irving’s long-term future with the Brooklyn Nets organization has come under the microscope after a season that started with championship asperations ended in a first-round sweep. Speculation has only grown since Wednesday’s season-ending press conference where Marks had a much more non-committal tone when discussing Irving’s future.
The now-former Nets assistant believed that Kyrie Irving can work in Kings County still, but that he needed to show more commitment.
“I feel like Kyrie has to make a commitment to himself and the game of basketball on how committed he is to being a great player,” Stoudemire said. “Because I feel like he should have been on that (NBA) Top-75 list, but at the same time you have to now take that as motivation going into next season. And prove to yourself you are a top player and do it consistently throughout the season.”
Irving appeared in just 29 games during the regular season and it marked the second consecutive year that he missed time on the court for non-injury-related reasons. The Nets barred Irving from the team because of his refusal to get the COVID vaccine and then later relented, but he was limited to only road games due to New York City’s vaccine mandate.
When he was on the floor during the regular season, Irving showed why the Nets had championship dreams. He averaged 27.4 points per game and shot 46.9% from the floor in 29 games this year.
However, Stoudemire felt that it might be in the Brooklyn Nets’ best interest to get a guarantee from Kyrie Irving in his next contract that he won’t miss time for non-basketball-related reasons. Irving has a $36.9 million option that he could decline in hopes of an extension with the Nets.
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“I think what needs to happen too in negotiating with Kyrie going forward you also have to add these type of conversations inside the contract,” Stoudemire said on Get Up. “You can say that you’re available and ready to play next season, but are you actually going to do that? Are you now going to renege on that and not play, so if that’s the case then you have this understanding well he may say he’s available and wants to play and he doesn’t, now what do we do.
“You have to negotiate that within the contract and the writings and figure out a way to have the writings set up in the contract where if he doesn’t play these things must happen.”