By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Kyrie Irving still doesn't seem to understand that he's a public figure. He's a superstar basketball player on one of the most high-profile franchises in all of sports. So, especially when he's talking to good friend Kevin Durant during All-Star weekend, he should know that he's going to have cameras on him at all times.
Yet Irving doesn't get why he's fielding all these questions about a now-infamous video of him talking with Durant, during which he flashes two fingers. It's led to speculation and lip-reading that he's talking about "two max slots" for him and Durant to join up in free agency. It wasn't totally fair to run wild with all these theories, but that's just how it goes sometimes with the internet and rumor-mongering and hot takes and the like.
Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving last night ????
— Ben Stinar (@BenStinar) February 18, 2019
Irving clearly didn't like the line of questioning he got about the video, going off on a reporter who attempted to ask him to clear up all of the speculation that's followed it. He made it clear that he doesn't care about any of that, but simultaneously wonders out loud why the speculation exists in the first place.
"Is the internet real for you in life? It's my life, right?" Irving said. "It's two people talking having a conversation. If this was the real world would it be anybody else’s business? But it's a video of somebody assuming what we’re talking about, making an opinion about it. But why would I care about it? Why does that have an impact on my life? Why do you ask me those types of questions?"
Not that Irving should care what people think. But at the same time he doesn't seem to think any of that talk should happen, as if it hasn't always been the reality for people in his profession.
"It’s a video of me and one of my best friends talking," Irving continued. "And then it turns out to be a dissection of a free agency meeting? Do you get that? Like, do you get that? And then I’m asked questions about that? That’s what disconnects me from all that [expletive]. I have no connection to it - over a video, asking a question about the fans? Come on. You do it for the likes and clicks. Everybody wants to hear me talk like this."
Irving either doesn't understand or doesn't care that it's the fans who are giving the likes and clicks. They're the ones who will click on this very article and either agree with me or call me a jerk, which is their right. And whether or not they take his side or the media's, or just hate everything about this situation, Irving isn't going to make the scrutiny going away by talking the way he does, and as much as he does in such a public fashion.
If he didn't want people to dissect a video of him talking to Durant about a possible free-agent team-up, then he should have kept the conversation private. It's not totally fair that he can't talk to a friend without the subsequent public reactions, but it's the life of a pro athlete. He's a celebrity. Privacy doesn't exist for him like it does for people in "the real world".
If he wants to keep it private, then maybe don't go on ESPN and talk openly to Rachel Nichols about how frustrated he is with his younger teammates.
"It’s been a trying year for us," Irving said in the interview. "Because we basically have a bunch of young men in our locker room that feel like they’re capable of doing a lot more than what they’re doing. And that’s OK. But there’s a maturity that you have to have, a professionalism you have to showcase every single day, and that’s what the great ones do."
And also, if he doesn't want negative comments to make it back into the Celtics locker room, then maybe don't make comments of that very nature yourself.
"A lot of people don’t realize on the outside that a lot of things that are said get into the locker rooms," Irving said. "Like a lot of things that are put in headlines get into locker rooms. Like, media has broken up locker rooms. Like, it’s been done before. Like, you say something that’s misinterpreted, and instead of addressing it with the person or individual, like human interaction, you read it on your phone, or you read it in text. Someone says, ‘Hey did you see what this person said about you?’ and it’s your teammate. And you’re like, wait, I didn’t hear that, and then you hold back, you don’t say anything to him, and then throughout the season it ends up coming out again. And it’s just like, man, that’s not the way life is supposed to go."
You know what kind of comment could infiltrate a locker room and provoke dissension? Kyrie saying this after a loss: "The young guys don’t know what it takes to be a championship level team. What it takes every day. And if they think it is hard now, what do they think it will be like when we’re trying to get to the Finals?"
If Irving doesn't want the constant questions about what he plans to do after this season, perhaps he shouldn't have told season ticket holders he would like to sign long-term with the Celtics, only to hijack Super Bowl week by saying things like "Ask me July 1st" and "I don't owe anybody s**t." If he doesn't want questions about what's happening internally, maybe don't call out your own teammates in the way he keeps doing.
The scrutiny wouldn't be nearly as intense if A) Irving was more direct or consistent and not so cryptic about his plans after this season, and B) the Celtics weren't underachieving like they have throughout the 2018-19 season. If the C's were in the top seed in the Eastern Conference with one of the 2-3 best records in the NBA ... well the 2-6 show here at the Sports Hub and others would still find Irving's rhetoric insufferable, for sure. But I imagine most people would put up with it. To me, Irving can act however he likes if he's winning championships. But their surprising lack of success, despite their talent, is what's driving a lot of the conversation.
And Irving is driving a lot of the conversation with his very own words. For a guy who apparently hates the media, he sure likes giving his thoughts on a wide variety of topics to the media. The sooner he realizes he's bringing a lot of this on himself, the better off he and the Celtics will be both on and off the court.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].