Nets guard Kyrie Irving reacts in the first half of...

Nets guard Kyrie Irving reacts in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs at Barclays Center on Monday, Jan. 2, 2023. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Good luck, Dallas. You’re going to need it.

Kyrie Irving is now your problem. On the court, you’re going to love watching him. He will make a formidable one-two punch with Luka Doncic and he instantly elevates your underachieving team from a .500-ish ballclub to one that can go deep in the playoffs.

Off the court? Fasten your seatbelts and get ready for a lot of scary left turns. As much as I’m a believer in separating the art from the artist, Irving’s adherence to beliefs that defy logic and his self-righteous stubbornness ruined what had the potential to be a basketball masterpiece in Brooklyn.

Irving is the No. 1 reason the Nets never got past the second round of the playoffs during his tenure. Sure, injuries and dumb luck (see Kevin Durant’s not-quite-a-three in Game 7 against the Bucks) played a role in the franchise’s postseason failures. Yet, nothing was as big as the fact that Irving played just 143 of a possible 288 games since joining the Nets in 2019.

It would be one thing if Irving had missed games because of a serious injury, but most of Irving’s absences were self-inflicted.  His refusal to get vaccinated last season put an incredible amount of pressure on those players who did.

With Irving not able to play in home games, Durant had to shoulder an extra load that may or may not have led to his knee injury. It also so irritated superstar teammate James Harden that he joked in a press conference that he was going to vaccinate Irving himself and then later got so fed up with the situation in Brooklyn that he demanded a trade.

Yet, the injury Irving inflicted on the Nets and their fans wasn’t just limited to what it did to their chances to win a title.

The Nets image took a hit when it took them nearly a week to suspend Irving after he used his social media to link to a film that promoted antisemitic tropes. The team, of course, had been hoping that Irving would take ownership of the problem, disavow antisemitism and apologize for the posting. When he failed to do so in two press conferences despite extensive coaching, the team finally got it right and suspended him until he did – which ended up being eight games.

And now, by demanding and getting a trade, he has potentially left the Nets in shambles. Kevin Durant has not weighed in publicly on what he thinks of the deal that is sending Irving to Dallas and will bring back former Net Spencer Dinwiddie, as well as Dorian Finney-Smith, an unprotected 2029 first-round selection and 2027 and 2029 second-round picks. The deal was first reported by ESPN and The Athletic and confirmed by Newsday.

But the NBA tradeline isn’t until Thursday and the Nets may not be done dealing. TNT’s Chris Haynes reported yesterday that Phoenix Suns are prepared to pursue Durant if he becomes available. The Suns were at the top of Durant’s list when he requested a trade this past summer.

Durant later rescinded the trade request, but that could all change with the departure of Irving. It was Irving who convinced Durant to come to the Nets in the first place. Now, he’s deserted Durant and moved on to the Mavericks, moved on to some other team so mesmerized by this talent that they truly believe they handle the baggage that comes along with him.

How bad can it be? You can almost hear Mavericks coach Jason Kidd and GM Nico Harrison asking this question, just like the Nets and the Celtics once did. Consider this: Over the course of his career, Irving has played with LeBron James, a stocked Celtics team and Kevin Durant. And he has deserted them all. That’s about as bad and telling as it gets.

Good luck, Dallas. You’re going to need it.

Kyrie in Brooklyn

Seasons 4

Games 143

Nets record 82-61

Points per game 27.1

Assists 5.3

Rebounds 5.1

Double-doubles 16

Triple-Doubles 1

*Regular-season numbers

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