LAS VEGAS — To say Kyrie Irving will be lugging some baggage when he joins the Nets is an understatement. He was widely blamed for the dysfunction displayed last season by the Celtics after Irving’s impatience with their talented young core manifested itself at midseason.
But forward Joe Harris is the one player on the Nets’ roster who knows the real Irving and what it was like to play with him when Harris was on the Cavaliers at the beginning of his NBA career. “Kyrie has got a big personality,” Harris said on Monday while attending the Nets’ Summer League win over the Wizards. “I think he’s one of these guys that’s misunderstood. The way that he’s construed in the media is probably going to paint him in a light that is not necessarily true.
“You could ask a lot of people that played with him and they’d all say that he’s a great teammate and a good guy to be around. For him, unfortunately, he’s just in one of those scenarios where there is so much more attention on him and people are paying attention to when he does have an off day. Nobody really cares when I have an off day. People care when Kyrie does.”
Harris said Irving was fun to be around whether they were playing video games or going out on the town. In particular, Harris recalled a game in San Antonio when Irving scored 57 points.
“It was one of the better individual performances I’ve ever seen on the basketball court,” Harris said. “He’s one of these guys where he’s very much a must-see. We all know the talent, but I got to see it for a year and a half every day in practice. He really is that talented. He’s a Top-10 talent.”
Although Irving left Boston under a cloud of sorts, he signaled his commitment to the Nets early and then did all he could to convince Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan to join him. The fact that Irving helped drive that decision and the fact that he grew up in West Orange, N.J. as a Nets fan suggest to Harris that Irving will arrive with a real sense of mission with his new franchise.
“I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but I would assume this is somewhere he’s probably hoping to play for a while,” Harris said. “Obviously, they made their intentions clear signing long-term deals. They’re committed. I think this is sort of going to have a lasting legacy on him as a player.”
Harris, who began three seasons ago with the Nets when they had the NBA’s worst record, can’t wait for their new era to begin. “Kevin and Kyrie and DeAndre all said the same thing in terms of wanting to play with guys that know how to play, and who play at a high level night in and night out,” Harris said. “We’re an unselfish ballclub, we try to do stuff the right way, and in general, people appreciate that.”
That’s the culture that drew Irving, Durant and Jordan, and the hope is they all buy into it.
The Nets also announced the signings of veteran free agents Wilson Chandler and Garrett Temple and the re-signing of Theo Pinson, whose rights were renounced last week in order to create cap space.