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SportsColumnistsBarbara Barker

Kyrie Irving video a bad optic for all concerned

Kyrie Irving of the Nets reacts on the

Kyrie Irving of the Nets reacts on the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the Jazz at Barclays Center on Jan. 5. Credit: Jim McIsaac

What is Kyrie Irving thinking?

Everyone from Nets fans to Nets teammates to NBA executives found themselves asking this question Tuesday after a video surfaced showing Irving — who has been on personal leave from the Nets — dancing sans mask with his sister Asia on a confetti-covered floor and then later clapping as she blows out the candles.

If the video is found to be recent — it began circulating on social media Monday night — Irving could be fined for breaching the league’s coronavirus protocols.

Nets general manager Sean Marks said in a statement before Tuesday night’s 122-116 win over Denver that the team is aware of the video and that they are reviewing the circumstances with both Irving and the NBA.

As of Monday night, the league’s COVID-19 guidelines forbid players from going to clubs, bars and lounges. They also ban attending social gatherings of more than 15 people. On Tuesday, with more than 100 players having tested positive in the first 20 days of play, the league released even stricter guidelines that basically confine players to their home and work.

What may be even more disconcerting for Nets fans was that Marks’ statement went on to acknowledge that it has not been determined when Irving will rejoin the team. Tuesday night’s game was the fourth straight that Irving has missed since he left the team last Thursday.

"A date of his return has yet to be finalized," Marks said. "In the meantime, we will continue to stay focused on our organizational goals."

So here is the deal: It’s kind of hard to focus on your organizational goals when the point guard you brought in to run your team isn’t sure he wants to play.

And it sure looks like Irving doesn’t want to play, which is an incredible shame, because Nets fans deserve a chance to see him and Kevin Durant on the court together on a regular basis.

They deserve a chance to see the Nets try to bring some excitement and interest to a franchise that has always played second fiddle to the Knicks.

They deserve to see Irving and Durant play the Knicks together for the first time Wednesday night.

Irving is an incredible but complicated talent and in many ways that is OK. What’s not OK is the optics of that video that circulated on Monday night.

Off the court, Irving is a generous player who has donated more than $2 million in the past year to COVID-related causes, including protective gear for essential workers of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, meals for New Yorkers in need and $1.5 million for WNBA players who were forced to opt out of last season because of health issues.

Unfortunately, when Irving appears in a video celebrating at a party while his teammates are hunkered down getting ready to play Denver and the Knicks on back-to-back nights, it’s kind of like Gov. Gavin Newsom asking Californians to social distance but then getting photographed attending a lavish indoor dinner party at the French Laundry restaurant.

It doesn’t erase the good Irving has done, but it is a painful visual.

"It just comes across as very selfish, if it’s true," teammate and current Nets analyst Richard Jefferson said of the video in an appearance on ESPN’s "The Jump."

Irving has not communicated publicly about why he is not playing, though there have been multiple reports that he is upset about the way the protests at the Capitol were handled by law enforcement.

Irving, Jefferson said, should get help if he needs it.

"We’re not trying to take away from your activism if you need time off. But also, if you need time off, then go get it," he said. "But right now, it’s just a bad look. He doesn’t owe it to anyone, to us, but the league will continue to move on whether or not he participates in it."

And not everyone will care what he is thinking.

New York Sports