Kyrie Irving Calls Out Critics in IG Post After Nets Loss; Kevin Durant Responds

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 23, 2021

FILE - In this Nov. 1, 2019, file photo, Brooklyn Nets' Kyrie Irving, left, and Kevin Durant watch the game action from the bench during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets in New York. With so much uncertainty around the NBA season, Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks is no longer ruling Kevin Durant out for the season. Marks had repeatedly said he didn't expect Durant to play this season while recovering from Achilles tendon surgery, but he acknowledged Wednesday that everything is unknown now that the season is suspended because of the new coronavirus. Even Kyrie Irving, who had shoulder surgery on March 3, might be available if play stretched into the summer. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving posted a cryptic statement Saturday on Instagram after scoring 38 points in Friday night's loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Irving's comments received a stamp of approval from teammate Kevin Durant:

The 28-year-old six-time All-Star returned to the Brooklyn lineup Wednesday after a two-week hiatus for personal reasons. He was fined $50,000 for violating the NBA's COVID-19 health and safety protocols and forfeited over $816,000 in salary for two of his missed games.

"I'm back. I'm happy to be back," Irving told reporters Tuesday. "And we got some great pieces and we just move on and I let my actions and my game speak for itself like I planned on doing. Just needed a pause."

He declined to answer whether he knowingly broke NBA guidelines during his time away but stressed the importance of finding the right work-life balance.

"When things become overwhelming in life, you've just got to take a step back and realize what's important," Irving said. "And I love to play—it's never been a question. I've committed myself, when this wasn't even a thing for me."

The Nets acquired James Harden in a trade with the Houston Rockets during the Duke product's time away, forming a championship-level foundation with Durant also back to full strength after he missed last season while recovering from an Achilles injury.

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Irving hasn't missed a beat since his return, tallying 75 points in two games, but Brooklyn lost each contest to Cleveland by 12 points.

It's going to take some time before the new-look roster begins to click, and there are questions about the squad's defense, but high-end talent is king in the NBA, and the Nets' superstar triumvirate rightfully vaulted them into the title conversation.

"We just need to find a way to play harder, dig deeper," head coach Steve Nash said after Friday's loss. "We are not a defensive roster. We have to take more pride, contest more shots, fight, scrap, claw, and that's what I think is missing as much as anything schematic that we're breaking down."

Brooklyn will attempt to get back in the win column Saturday night when the Miami Heat visit the Barclays Center for an 8 p.m. ET tip-off on NBA TV.