Former Nets forward Kenyon Martin says he would have had ‘major problem with Kyrie Irving’

Brooklyn Nets Kyrie Irving
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) and forward Kevin Durant (7) drop back on defense 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

A former Nets great thinks that there needs to be major changes in Brooklyn after they were swept out of the first round by the Boston Celtics. 

Former power forward Kenyon Martin told Sirius XM’s NBA Radio that he would have had an issue with how things played out with Kyrie Irving this season. The current point guard missed a third of the season because he refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and then was limited to just road games when the Nets allowed him to return to the team in late December. 

It wasn’t until New York City amended its vaccine mandate to allow for New York athletes and performers to work in city venues without being vaccinated that Irving returned to full-time status.

“I would have had a major, major issue with Kyrie Irving if I was Kevin Durant,” Martin said during the radio interview. “If I’m Kevin Durant I could have went anywhere else and picked anybody else to play with, but we made this decision together to come here and do this. And this season, you failed me, as a friend, as a teammate, as a brother, as a competitor. All of those things you failed me in. Ain’t no way I’m out here creating handshakes with you when you did that.”

Irving never fully explained why he was against receiving the COVID vaccine and at times stated that in part it was a way to give those who didn’t have a voice a voice. During the course of the year, his absence was a major topic of conversation and when he did return the focus turned to whether or not he would get the shot.

It became an even bigger topic of conversation after the Nets lost Kevin Durant in January for 21 games with an MCL sprain in his left knee. It forced the Nets to play with just James Harden when the team was at Barclays Center during that stretch.

“I think (Durant) did pick the wrong situation, especially where he came from,” Martin said. “He could have stayed in Golden State and they could have ironed out they differences and they could have ran through the league for the foreseeable future. But he made the decision to come to play with Kyrie and for him to let him down. James (Harden) is going to be James. 

“He’s been hard to play with. It was a mistake from the beginning, but I didn’t look at James as a bigger problem as Kyrie.” 

All of the drama is why Martin felt that Durant should want to see Irving gone before next season. 

“If not him then trade me,” Martin said. “He has to go man because it’s not about us. We understand that there’s individual things. We as athletes are selfish to a certain degree, but when that selfishness comes before our team and what we trying to accomplish then it’s problem.”

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Martin was a member of the Nets organization from 2000 to 2004 and helped lead the then-New Jersey Nets to NBA Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003. He was traded to the Denver Nuggets at the end of the 2003-04 NBA season. 

Martin also suited up for the New York Knicks from2013 to 2014 and eventually retired from professional basketball in 2015.