Former NBA star-turned-coach Amar’e Stoudemire had smoke for one of the team’s franchise players, calling out Kyrie Irving for messing up the team’s chemistry with his lengthy absences all season.
The Nets made the playoffs and then made an early exit earlier this month when they were swept by the Boston Celtics in a series where the Brooklynites seemingly had no answers for Boston’s defense or their ability to generate offense when necessary. Stoudemire, who worked as a player development assistant this season for the Nets, told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith on Thursday that he thought Irving’s missed games were a problem for a team that had to constantly adjust its lineups depending on whether or not Irving was available.
“It made it difficult for us as coaches to figure out, like, well who’s going to play in spite of Kyrie? The chemistry’s not quite there probably like we would like for it to be, so it was difficult for us to manage that,” he said in response to a Smith question about the Nets’ superstar guard.
If you’ve been under a rock for a year, Stoudemire’s comments referenced the missed games Irving racked up because of his refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19. While the NBA did not mandate that players be vaccinated, New York did have a workplace vaccine mandate that covered athletes playing at the Nets home Barclays Center. That meant that for most of the season, Irving was only eligible for away games, and not even all of those since other cities also has vaccine requirements. Irving played in 29 of Brooklyn’s 82 regular season games, while the Nets contorted themselves into 43 different starting lineups, according to Netsdaily.com.
In fairness, Kyrie wasn’t the Nets’ only availability problem this season. Former starting guard James Harden forced a trade to the Philadelphia 76ers back in February; the reasons why depend on who you ask. In exchange, Brooklyn got Ben Simmons, who was once regarded as the key to Philadelphia’s process, but hasn’t played in a professional basketball game in almost a year.