Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving Keeps Reminding Us to Be Thankful That He Deserted Celtics

To say the Celtics dodged a bullet by avoiding a long-term contract agreement with Kyrie Irving doesn't begin to convey the team's good fortune, writes NBCS Boston's John Tomase

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Tomase: Kyrie's latest act is shameful and a reminder of what might've been originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Today's installment of, "Thank God Kyrie abandoned us," is sponsored by two words: Alex Jones.

No NBA devotee ever wants the Sandy Hook truther and peddler of vile conspiracies intruding upon their fandom, but Kyrie Irving has a knack for giving us exactly what we don't want precisely when we don't want it.

Irving's latest foray into self-parody would be eye-rolling if it weren't so reckless. With a rise in antisemitism moving Patriots owner Robert Kraft to co-sponsor an ad imploring NFL fans to, "Stand up to Jewish hate," Irving's recent decision to highlight a documentary deploying racist tropes is particularly galling.

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We won't name the film or convey its message, because Irving has given this particular work enough attention, but suffice to say it treads on well-worn antisemitic territory. Coming on the heels of Irving sanctioning one of Jones's boiler-plate rants about secret societies, you'd think maybe the mercurial guard would re-examine his belief system.

Except that's the last thing you'd actually think, because Irving predictably doubled down, spouting his typical gibberish about living his truth and no doubt giving Nets owner Joe Tsai the world's most unrelenting migraine.

"I'm not going to stand down on anything I believe in," said Irving with trademark defiance, delusion, and narcissism. "I'm only going to get stronger because I'm not alone."

We'll see how long the last part of that statement holds. If there's an image no NBA owner wants, it's fans sitting courtside in yarmulkes and "Fight antisemitism" shirts directly rebuking their marquee superstar. And yet that was exactly the case during Brooklyn's victory over the Pacers on Monday, when one of the fans in question told the New York Post that Irving sarcastically told the group he appreciated them.

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Because the Celtics exorcised the ghost of Irving during a delightful sweep of the Nets last spring, it's fair to say we don't give him the level of attention that once consumed us. But it's worth noting what might have been.

To say the Celtics dodged a bullet doesn't begin to convey their good fortune at Irving's betrayal three years ago when he reneged on a promise to re-sign. They narrowly avoided an asteroid like the one that wiped out the dinosaurs.

(Who, incidentally, definitely didn't look like that.)

While the C's remain among the class of the Eastern Conference with a legitimate chance to raise Banner 18 next summer -- depending on the health of Robert Williams -- the Nets are mired not just in mediocrity, but the kind of disarray only Kyrie can provoke.

They're 2-5 and springing leaks everywhere. As if Irving's sanctimonious I-do-my-own-research act weren't already tired enough, his divisiveness is trickling down to the court, where Ben Simmons is meshing with fellow All-Stars Irving and Kevin Durant about as well as opposing magnets oriented to repel. Irving has already been caught on mic screaming in frustration at Simmons to shoot, and all that encouragement has gotten Brooklyn is a zero percent 3-point shooter who's below 50 percent from the line, too.

The Nets opened the season with the league's third-highest championship odds, which just proves that Vegas algorithms have yet to account for chaos. They're instead tied for 12th in the East behind the league's worst defense -- another Kyrie specialty -- and facing a crossroads.

The Nets made the obvious Band-Aid change on Tuesday by firing coach Steve Nash, a Hall of Famer whose skills never translated behind the bench. But the more foundational alteration would be ridding the organization of Irving's toxicity and accepting the consequences.

The Celtics have already lived this reality. Irving's departure seemingly doomed them to mediocrity, but it instead provided the springboard not just to the Finals, but a place as Eastern Conference power brokers. Superstar Jayson Tatum and All-Star Jaylen Brown needed to make this team their own, and that was never going to happen with Irving on the roster.

His other former team, the Cavaliers, are experiencing a similar renaissance. They used one of the picks acquired for Irving, guard Collin Sexton, to swing a blockbuster with the Jazz for All-Star Donovan Mitchell that has already vaulted them among the league's elite.

Funny how that works. The Celtics know it, the Cavs know it, and maybe the Nets will one day know it, too -- there's life after Kyrie, and that life is quiet and good.

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