I was going to open this helpful explainer/warning about how the Kyrie Irving experience is going to go for you Brooklyn Nets fans with a joke about how the Nets don’t actually have fans other than the occasional hipster in a Yinka Dare jersey.
But that wouldn’t be fair or accurate, and a Yinka Dare jersey would be pretty cool.
Besides, we here in Boston know your NBA bona fides are legit. Back in January and again in March, you taunted the Celtics with “Kyrie is leaving!’’ chants. They were hurtful and annoying, and damned if they weren’t accurate.
We have no choice but to respect the quality mockery. Especially since he didn’t just leave, he joined your team.
So out of respect and good sportsmanship, allow us to tell you something about Kyrie that we know will come true, even if it will be hard for you to believe now.
This is going to end badly, and much sooner than you think.
When the Nets make the union official and formally introduce Irving and co-conspirator Kevin Durant later this month and there are smiles all around, take a mental picture. Because someday you’ll swear it was all a mirage.
Oh, at first it will be everything you hoped. Irving is a truly extraordinary basketball player. You know this already, but watching it on a daily basis is a genuine treat, and it will be his show next season with Durant off rehabbing his torn Achilles.
Irving changes direction like a hardwood Barry Sanders, handles the ball like an And 1 showboat who can actually play, and finishes in traffic better than … well, I don’t have a metaphor or a comparison here.
Let’s just say he does it with more skill, creativity and deftness than any guard I’ve ever seen, to the point that I’m convinced his grace and dexterity costs him free throw attempts. And when he’s really locked in, you’ll start believing pull-up 30-footers are good shots.
You’ll love the Kyrie experience so much that you’ll convince yourself that Uncle Drew 2 is a decent movie, even though you will acknowledge all of the other basketball players in it are better actors than him, especially Lisa Leslie.
But it will start to change. Subtly, weirdly, almost imperceptibly at first. But it will change, and not in a good way. It’s never in a good way.
He’ll praise the opposing coach, which will seem generous the first time. Then he’ll do it again, and then again, and you’ll realize he’s not talking about the opposing coach so much as he’s pulling a passive-aggressive stunt on his own. You’ve got two years, Kenny Atkinson.
He’ll talk about how he wants none of the ancillary media noise and just wants everything to be about basketball, then he’ll miss a practice because he needs to be fitted for a prosthetic nose for a new Pepsi commercial.
He’ll soliloquize during postgame press conferences, and he’ll sound almost profound, right up until you read the transcript of what he actually said and realize he sounds like a freshman philosophy student who didn’t do the reading.
Then he’ll tell you that you and the young teammates couldn’t possibly understand where he’s coming from. He’ll sigh a lot.
He’ll start to call them out on the court, obnoxiously and detrimentally, usually when one of them takes a shot when he wanted the ball.
Those young teammates will play with more energy and freedom when he’s out than when they play with him. When he’s not around, they’ll talk about how much they miss D’Angelo Russell.
I can’t tell you exactly when all of this will happen, just that it will. The honeymoon period in Boston lasted most of his first season. I suspect it will in Brooklyn too.
But look out in year 2, when Durant, as sensitive as he is skilled, returns and tries to figure out what the injury has taken from him and what he can get back.
Irving and Durant may be close friends and co-conspirators – it sure looks like they’ve been planning this partnership long before they were caught on video at the All-Star Game purportedly talking about two max slots – but both don’t miss a slight real or imagined, and they’re both masters of isolation ball.
Irving will only cede to him briefly, at the beginning when Durant returns, because it will make Irving look good. They will never quite mesh, especially if Durant returns with less mobility, a rough replica of 1976 Bob McAdoo.
Mark these words: Before his contract is half complete, Woj will report that Irving wants out. This might surprise his new fans, but it will surprise no one familiar with his past. How does he operate? Let’s put it this way: Had he stayed at Duke beyond a season, he would have been gazing longingly toward Chapel Hill before his Christmas break his sophomore year.
I understand, this may seem like sour grapes from a jilted fan base. That’s because it is. But it’s not just our experience. When the Celtics acquired him from Cleveland in August 2017, we ignored all the warnings about his moodiness and selfish play. And there were many, none more prescient than a Howard Beck piece for Bleacher Report in which scouts doubted he’d curb his bad habits for his new team.
“Can he evolve? Does he want to? Will he play the brand of defense the Celtics demand? Will he embrace coach Brad Stevens’ move-the-ball philosophy? Can he suppress his worst tendencies for the greater good? Can he be a galvanizing force instead of a one-man show?’’
The answers, as it turned out, were: nope, nah, everyone knows defense is for resting, he will embrace his own hog-the-ball philosophy while undermining his coach, he cannot, and he has no interest in doing this.
Here’s the saddest part of all. As great as he is, as fun as it will be at the beginning, when Irving’s ego veers Sean Marks’s best-laid plan off course, when it finally leaks out that he wants out, long after his detrimental, indifferent actions have already told you as much, you’ll be so annoyed with him by then that you won’t even care.
Don’t worry, though, Nets fans. When Kyrie’s leaving, we won’t taunt you.
You were right about what he’d do to Boston.
Surely it will come as no surprise when he does it to you too.