Without warning or buildup, Kyrie Irving suddenly appeared on the hot seat to start the Nets’ Zoom media session on Monday. Not only did this mark Irving’s first interview with reporters covering the Nets since he suffered a knee injury Feb. 26 in Washington, but it was his first interview since announcing a media boycott on Dec. 4 that was followed by a $25,000 fine from the NBA on Dec. 7.
Responding to that action in an Instagram post last week, Irving made a comment suggesting that he regards media members as "pawns." But the Irving who sat in front of the camera Monday and engaged the media for more than 17 minutes was in remarkably good humor, displayed no rancor and offered his customary in-depth answers on a wide range of topics.
Irving began by saying of teaming up with Kevin Durant and a talented cast: "It is just so different here. I love it." He also praised new coach Steve Nash and offered an apology for a previous comment suggesting that he or Durant could be head coach, addressed rumors of a possible trade for James Harden, explained his media policy and said "pawns" did not apply to reporters, and spoke glowingly about the Nets’ depth of talent and chance to compete for an NBA title.
In the interest of volume and context, here is a catalog of the subjects Irving covered:
On his reason for a media boycott: "The focus is on what’s going on here, my job. I wanted to make sure that was clear, no distractions, nothing about dispelling anything . . . nor about calling out one person or another, not even to refer to you guys as pawns, you know, or media. It’s just really what I felt about the mistreatment of certain artists when we get to a certain platform of when we make decisions within our lives to have full control and ownership.
"We want to perform in a secure and protected space . . . My family had a foundation and taught me the right things and how to live a principled life. So having that in basketball and my art, it’s just finding a balance. That’s all."
On his budding relationship with Nash (Irving also was effusive with praise for the assistant coaches): "Steve’s been amazing. It really is a reflection of the type of person he is and the IQ he has for the game. He commands the respect . . . It’s just giving us a comfortable space to grow, to communicate, to throw ideas out there. You’ve got a two-time MVP coaching you. I think I’ve got to take back my comments in terms of the head coach a few months ago. We have such great synergy. Everyone feels like we’re coaching one another to be better, so I’m grateful for that."
On reports that Harden, the three-time defending NBA scoring champion, is trying to force the Rockets to trade him to the Nets to join Durant and himself: "There’s no control that we have as players to at least manage what’s being said in terms of rumor mills and what’s being reported. Let’s just leave it at that. James is a great player and we wish him well . . . but we’re focused on us."
On what it was like to finally play with Durant in the Nets’ preseason win over the Wizards on Sunday: "I don’t want to take away from what makes me and K special. This group is what makes us even more special. They follow — I’m not even going to say follow — they’re alongside of us for this journey to aid us in our goals. Me and K have a great relationship . . . but our synergy carries over to everyone else, and we allow each other to teach, to learn, to do it every single day."
On the difficulty the Nets face coming together with shortened preparation time and a condensed season because of COVID-19: "I am just grateful to be sitting here with you guys . . . You want to be happy, secure and feel protected, and the guys here have been able to make me feel like that . . . It’s COVID. We can’t do much about it. But I wish everyone’s families well, and we’re here to play basketball and perform and put on for our families."
On overcoming his own injuries, not only with the Nets but with the Celtics, to come back in good shape to challenge for a title with Durant: "You know, having disappointing seasons the last few years hasn’t necessarily been the best reflection that I wanted to put out. But it’s a different show, it’s a different stage and it’s a new beginning in terms of what we’re building and moving forward with the pieces that we have here. And that includes [Nos.] 7-11, so get to know us."
Notes & quotes: Caris LeVert (bruised patella) is cleared to return to practice on Tuesday . . . Nash said LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris might rotate at the starting shooting guard and small forward spots.