Kyrie Irving reached out to Nets general manager Sean Marks, coach Kenny Atkinson and his teammates to clarify his controversial comments after Wednesday night’s loss in Philadelphia.
Irving had said the Nets’ needs are “glaring” in their quest to become a title contender. He added that they need “one or two more pieces” to complement Kevin Durant, Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, DeAndre Jordan, Wilson Chandler and Garrett Temple, leaving out Jarrett Allen, Joe Harris and Taurean Prince.
“I talked to the guys and made sure that this doesn’t divide our locker room,” said Irving, adding that he should have reworded his comments or mentioned more names to make sure no one was left out.
Atkinson was appreciative.
“We’re a team. We’re a family. We talk things out,” he said. “He reached out to me and we had a great conversation. Reached out to his teammates. Just like to leave it at that.”
Atkinson declined to comment when asked if he agrees with Irving’s assessment of the roster.
“I do respect his opinion. I will say that,” he said. “We do talk about things internally. I know the communication lines are open between me and him, me and Sean.”
Irving was asked about his leadership abilities and the media’s perception of them.
“It’s not like I’m like an [expletive] yelling at everybody in their locker all the time,” he said as part of a long answer. “. . . I’m going to continue to demand greatness out of myself and demand greatness out of my teammates and we go from there. If it’s harsh as a leader or too much for anybody, if you’re not in our locker room, stay the [expletive] out. It’s as simple as that.”
While his comments were honest and seemingly accurate, Irving was heavily criticized, with some questioning his leadership capabilities.
Said NBA analyst Charles Barkley on Thursday night on TNT: “For you to come in here and then play half the season, then say, ‘Well, we’re just not that good, we’re missing some big pieces.’ Like, nah dude, we made the playoffs without you last year. We’re bringing in an All-Star player, we should be a top-four seed easily.”
The Nets (18-22) are in eighth place in the Eastern Conference as they head into Saturday’s game against the NBA-best Bucks (37-6) at Barclays Center.
The Nets went 4-7 with Irving before he was sidelined for 26 games with a right shoulder impingement and are 1-2 since he returned.
Irving is averaging 22.3 points and 6.0 assists in the last three games and 27.2 points and 6.9 assists overall.
Notes & quotes: Jordan has a dislocated finger that will not require surgery and will be re-evaluated sometime next week, the Nets said. They will go with a backup center by committee for the time being, with rookie Nic Claxton getting a chance to show he can play the role behind starter Allen . . . Harris also will be out Saturday because of lower-back soreness.