Windhorst: Nets' Kyrie Irving Has Said Basketball Won't Always Be His Priority

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJanuary 14, 2021

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) reacts during an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks, Friday, Jan. 1, 2021, in New York. The Hawks won 114-96. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
Adam Hunger/Associated Press

While the Brooklyn Nets made headline news by trading for James Harden on Wednesday, one of their other stars may not be entirely focused on basketball.

"Kyrie [Irving] has been sending messages to people in many ways that basketball is not always going to be his priority," ESPN's Brian Windhorst said on his podcast. 

That is notable, as the Nets will be under the spotlight all season after landing Harden in a deal Wednesday involving the Houston Rockets, Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers. Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported the Rockets ended up with Victor Oladipo, Dante Exum, Rodions Kurucs, three Nets first-round picks, one Milwaukee Bucks first-round pick and four Brooklyn first-round pick swaps.

Irving has not played since Jan. 5 and has been away from the team for personal reasons.

On Wednesday, Joe Vardon of The Athletic reported there is "real concern" within the league about the situation, and there's no timetable for when the point guard will return. When asked whether he was confident Irving would return to the team, head coach Steve Nash told reporters, "sure."

The NBA is also examining videos that appeared to show Irving at a large social gathering without a mask or social distancing while he is away from the team.

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Nets general manager Sean Marks released a statement saying the team is aware of the situation:

Irving was one of the most vocal players when it came to expressing concern about returning to play in the Walt Disney World Resort bubble to end the 2019-20 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic and social unrest in the United States.

If and when he does return, the Nets figure to be on the short list of NBA title contenders following the Harden trade.

Few teams can match the star power that a trio of Irving, Harden and Kevin Durant brings to the table, and the Nets wouldn't have to worry about Western Conference teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers or L.A. Clippers until an NBA Finals matchup.