Medina on Nets: "Kyrie is going to screw it up"

Kyrie Irving Nets
Photo credit USA Today Images
By CBS Sports Radio

Last year, the Brooklyn Nets signed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in free agency. This year, they might actually get to play together.

Durant, of course, missed the entire 2019-20 NBA season with a torn Achilles, while Irving was limited to 20 games due to knee and shoulder issues.

Assuming both are healthy this season, can Durant and Irving co-exist and have success together?

“I have certain shades of optimism about them, but I have certain shades of skepticism,” USA Today NBA writer Mark Medina said on Reiter Than You. “Do I have confidence in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving? I have confidence in Kevin Durant, his ability to come back from his Achilles injury. He’s one of the most fundamentally sound players in the league and in history. I think one of the underrated things he didn’t get enough credit for in Golden State is his ability to be who he is while also blending in with guys like Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. 

“But I am skeptical entirely on Kyrie Irving,” Medina continued. “I think there’s a lot left to be desired about his leadership style, and I think even if Kevin might come into that partnership with a lot of respect toward Kyrie and wanting to be a team player, I think at some point Kyrie is going to screw it up. I think Kyrie is just such a volatile mix and a questionable leader that they might do well on talent alone, but I think there’s going to be a lot of drama and unnecessary wounds that happen along the way.”

Medina has confidence in the Nets’ front office and believes Steve Nash is equipped to be a successful NBA head coach. Irving, however, remains a cause for concern.

“I think they have to at least reach the conference finals,” Medina said. “I’m not going to say you got to win the NBA championship or bust or blow it up. The Miami Heat the first year [with LeBron James in 2010]. . . sometimes it just takes time. But I think unlike with Miami, all those guys had pure intentions. It was an X’s and O’s puzzle they had to figure out as opposed to personalities. Here with Kyrie, I just have a lot of skepticism. . . . [with] his personality and his willingness to change. He won in Cleveland. He’s a talented player, and so they can succeed. But I think because of that, when you look at the totality of what they can accomplish, I think it’s going to always be lower because at some point something is going to get in the way because of him.” 

The Nets were reportedly trying to acquire James Harden from Houston to create a Big Three, but it appears a potential deal is unlikely. Medina believes that is for the best.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to make some sort of deal that would align Harden with Durant and Kyrie,” Medina said. “Even if Durant and Harden can work, there’s going to be inevitable problems that happen between Harden and Irving – not because of anything negative [involving] Kevin Durant, but just the idea of having three superstars that need the ball. There’s just going to be this tension.”

Medina would much rather see the Nets trade Irving for Harden, but that, too, seems unlikely.

“I think a Harden/Durant pairing would do wonders,” Medina said. “I just don’t see Houston taking that bid to take Kyrie in return.”