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Kenny Atkinson defends Kyrie Irving after ESPN article about 'mood swings'

Nets guard Kyrie Irving gestures as he runs

Nets guard Kyrie Irving gestures as he runs downcourt after hitting a three-point shot during the first half against the Pacers on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019, at Barclays Center. Credit: AP/Kathy Willens

A recent ESPN article on the Nets’ free-agent coup and how happy Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan are in Brooklyn included a section that focused on Irving’s “mood swings” and noted there was an incident where he resisted cooperating with the performance team. Irving addressed it for the first time after the Nets suffered a 118-108 loss to the Pacers Wednesday night at Barclays Center.

“Who cares what ESPN says or anyone says?” said Irving, who scored a team-high 28 points. “History has shown you can be the best teammate ever, and someone is still going to say something negative about what you’re doing and how you approach your life. If you allow that to get you to respond emotionally, they’re going to get you right where they want you to be.

“I kind of expect that at this point for everybody to say things like that. I’m going to keep on smiling and doing me. I’m happy where I am. That comes with it, I guess.”

Before the game, Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said he felt no need to discuss it with Irving because he understands scrutiny comes with his high profile. Atkinson cited Brook Lopez as an example of another veteran who questioned the Nets’ methods.

“It’s a give and take, it’s a talk,” Atkinson said of the need to accommodate accomplished veteran players at times. “I do think there’s some non-negotiables that are like, ‘Man, we really want you to do this.’ To that effect, there has been great buy-in. But yeah, that’s part of the NBA with the give and take.”

When Irving signed last summer as a free agent, questions about his leadership and temperament followed him from the Celtics. Irving brushed off the notion of trying to change public perceptions as something beyond his control.

“I’m not here to dispel anything,” Irving told a large group of reporters. “You can continue to ask other people around me what they think about me. You can continue to write ‘mood swings.’ Human beings have mood swings. It’s okay to be human. I don’t have to be perfect for anyone here, nor do I have to be perfect for the public. I’m not here to dispel any perception. I’m just here to be myself.”

Asked if he had discussed the ESPN article with teammates, Irving called the latest tempest “hilarious” and added, “I really don’t want to invite that into my teammates. They know who I am. I’m proud of who I am.”

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