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Nets Kyrie Irving discusses mindset during tumultuous season

Kyrie Irving Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) reacts during the second quarter of game four of the first round of the 2022 NBA playoffs against the Boston Celtics at Barclays Center.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

In his first comments since the Brooklyn Nets were knocked out of the playoffs, Kyrie Irving finally discussed what it was like to go through the whirlwind season that was the 2021-22 campaign. 

The Nets superstar said during an appearance on the “ETCs with Kevin Durant” podcast that he wondered if he would be traded or released and that he “never felt like I was back.” The guest spot was the first time Irving had really delved into his own mental state while he was not permitted to play by the Nets due to his unvaccinated status and then later brought back into the fold on a part-time basis.

It wasn’t until New York City Mayor Eric Adams amended the private sector vaccine mandate that Irving was finally able to play both on the road and at Barclays Center.

“There was nothing to lose, you know?” Kyrie Irving said on the podcast. “It was only the journey to enjoy at that point, because I was sitting at home and — I don’t even want to say sitting at home, I was wondering at home what my future was going to look like, you know? Whether I was going to be traded, whether I was going to be released, whether I was going to get the opportunity to be on another team, how I was going to spin this for myself in a positive way.”

While Irving’s playoff performance was not where it needed to be, the Nets’ point guard had a stellar regular season in the 29 games that he did appear in. He matched a career-best 27.4 points per game and had four games where he scored above 40 points and had a 60-point and 50-point effort as well during the year.

Irving also shot 46.9% from the field during the regular season. 

“I kept affirming to myself things are going to change. I had people around me — and I’m grateful for them — affirming that things were going to change,”  he explained. “But I never felt like myself throughout the season, because I’m usually sustaining a level of growth throughout the year, instead of trying to catch up with everybody that’s been playing for four or five months. They’ve been at it every day since October or September.”

Kyrie Irving Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) controls the ball against Boston Celtics guard Payton Pritchard (11) during the second quarter of game four of the first round of the 2022 NBA playoffs at Barclays Center.Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Irving admitted that he didn’t think the New York City mandate was going to be as stringent as it was when he first entered training camp and that he knew that not everyone was going to understand or agree with his decision to remain unvaccinated.

He also said that the feeling that he had been letting a number of people down did creep into his head as he had to sit by and watch the Brooklyn Nets’ season from afar early on. 

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“I was asked in all different types of ways how I felt and whether or not I was going to waiver.  Did I feel like I was letting the world down?” Kyrie Irving said. “Letting Nets fans down, letting my teammates down, and yeah a part of that letdown feeling definitely seeped in. Cause it completely caught me off guard. I didn’t expect to come into the season with all of this being put on my plate.

“It was like an ultimatum given to me. It’s either you work and get vaccinated, just like this ultimatum was given to other people, or you sit at home and now we get to talk s–t about your decision. And you personally and make all these judgments.” 

Irving added later that he had been approaching the Brooklyn Nets on a near-daily basis on the progress and status of the vaccine mandate. He also said that he had tried to get in touch with the Mayor’s Office and other elected officials to figure out how to work something out. 

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