"Calling anybody a pawn is a sure sign of disrespect," Love told reporters Friday. "I'm not a divisive person."
Irving, who's now a member of the Brooklyn Nets, used the phrase earlier Friday in a statement posted on Instagram after he was fined $25,000 by the NBA for failing to complete his preseason media availability:
His punishment came after he released comments through a spokesperson last week rather than appear for a Zoom meeting to answer questions from national and local reporters:
Ian Begley @IanBegley
A note on statement Kyrie Irving issued (pictured below) in lieu of speaking w/media during NBA’s Media Week: it doesn’t apply to entire season, as Newsday noted. Details on that from Ashley Blackwood, Chief Communications Officer for Irving & KAI Enterprise, is pictured below: https://t.co/8cdiGYaBIh
Irving has endured a long-standing feud with the media, and he explained his side of the story during a March 2019 interview with Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes, saying he felt his remarks were too frequently used to manufacture drama:
"The way I've handled things, it hasn't been perfect. I've made a lot of mistakes that I take full responsibility for. I apologize. I haven't done it perfectly. I haven't said the right things all the time. I don't want to sit on a place like I'm on a pedestal from anybody. I'm a normal human being that makes mistakes. For me, I think because of how fixated I was on trying to prove other people wrong, I got into a lot of habits that were bad, like reading stuff and reacting emotionally. That's just not who I am."
The $25,000 fine isn't likely to sway Irving's stance on speaking with the media since it's a mere drop in the bucket for a player making $33.5 million this season as part of a $136.5 million contract.
That said, the two key points are whether he'll follow traditional protocol for answering questions after regular-season games and what the NBA may do if he continues to avoid those interactions.
A lot of attention will be paid to the Nets throughout the 2020-21 campaign as the return of a healthy Kevin Durant should push the team into the championship conversation. Getting Irving's thoughts on the team's chemistry will be an important part of the story.
He could opt for more exclusive interviews like the one with Haynes last year that could grant him a better chance to provide clear, concise answers, but it's unclear whether that would satisfy the NBA.
It's a story that will probably generate more headlines as the Nets prepare to open the season on Dec. 22 against the Golden State Warriors.