Should Nets Bettors Worry About Latest Kyrie Irving Drama?
Kyrie Irving’s talent is undeniable. The 28-year-old has been to six All-Star Games, has averaged 22.5 points over a 10-year career and has a championship ring thanks to one of the most clutch shots in NBA history.
But there were known risks with Irving both on the court and in NBA betting terms. Brooklyn, where he signed before last season, is Irving’s third team in four seasons. And from 2015 to 2020 he missed 128 games with various injuries.
Irving is once again missing games, though it has nothing to do with injury and is something fans must consider when wagering on Brooklyn games and the team’s NBA futures.
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Kyrie Irving Sitting Out
The story began Jan. 7, when Shams Charania tweeted that Irving was going to miss that night’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers for personal reasons.
It was notable considering the NBA’s new policy about teams being prohibited from resting healthy players for national TV games — Brooklyn-Philadelphia was set to air on TNT — but not unheard of for a star player to miss a single game. The only problem? The Nets had no idea Irving was planning on missing the game.
The story took another turn when Irving didn’t travel to Brooklyn’s game in Memphis the following night. The only positive was that first-year head coach Steve Nash told reporters he had been in contact with Irving, an improvement from the previous night.
Nets coach Steve Nash on Kyrie Irving: "I messaged with Ky, but I want to keep all that stuff private."— Jeff Zillgitt (@JeffZillgitt) January 8, 2021
Two days later it was announced that Irving would also miss Sunday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The story really took a turn shortly after that game.
Photos and videos surfaced online allegedly showing Irving celebrating his sister Asia’s 30th birthday party in a New Jersey nightclub. Irving and many of the attendees were mask-less, which turned the story from ominous to potentially breaking serious NBA rules.
So, it was not surprising when a story surfaced on Tuesday from ESPN that the NBA was investigating Irving and the mask-less videos for a potential breach of coronavirus protocols. If the league says Irving broke the rules, he would lose 1/72nd of his salary and face a quarantine period away from the team.
ESPN also reported that the point guard wasn’t expected to be back with the Nets the rest of this week, which would mean a fourth, fifth and sixth straight game missed for personal reasons. At this point, it’s unclear when – or if – Irving will return to Brooklyn’s lineup this season.
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Brooklyn Nets Need Irving
Brooklyn started 2-0 with blowouts of the Celtics and Warriors. But since then the Nets are 3-6 and rank 13th in net rating. Expected to compete for a title, the Nets entered Tuesday’s game against the Nuggets on the outside of the NBA playoff picture.
Irving’s presence would certainly help Brooklyn, which is 1-3 when he doesn’t play. Brooklyn’s offense has a net rating of 121.0 with Irving on the floor and 107.1 with him off it. Brooklyn’s defense also takes a massive hit with Irving off the floor (112.3) compared to when he’s playing (103.1).
His individual net rating is the best in the NBA among 90 players averaging 30 or more minutes. Irving has been outstanding when he has on the floor but Brooklyn is simply average without him.
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The Nets are 2-2 against the spread without Irving. Brooklyn has been able to stay afloat with Kevin Durant back in the lineup (he missed two games because of health and safety protocols) and the team has one of the deepest rosters in the NBA.
But the Nets are going to be a risky bet every time they take the floor and it’s unknown how Irving’s absence is affecting the locker room. Case in point: Brooklyn blew out the East-leading 76ers by 13 points without Irving (and Durant), then lost to the tanking Thunder by 13 at home on Sunday.
Oddsmakers Still Confident in Brooklyn
Of course, Irving and the Nets have plenty of time to turn things around. Though they’re not in the playoffs as of today, there are more than 60 games left in the regular season for them to turn things around and get ready for a playoff run.
Oddsmakers have kept them as high as +500 in the latest NBA title odds, trailing only the defending champion Lakers. With Irving out of the mix and Durant playing like his old self, the latter’s MVP odds have shrunk from +1200 to +800. For now, it’s probably safer to see how the Irving fiasco shakes out. It’s anyone’s guess as to what Irving will do next.