Kyrie Irving will miss his fourth consecutive game tonight when he is not on hand for the Brooklyn Nets' game against the Denver Nuggets. Irving last played on January 5th, the day before the attempted coup at the U.S. Capitol building. He's been out ever since for "personal reasons." That's it. That is the totality of the details we have nearly a week into his disappearance.
Is his absence related to the events in Washington last week? We have no idea. The timing says yes, but it is still pure speculation as Kyrie has not told anyone anything. Which is his right. The only people he owes any explanation to are his coaches and teammates with the Brooklyn Nets. Presumably he has said something to them because they don't seem worried or upset about his publicly unexplained absence. But who knows?
It's just weird. It's really, really weird. Which makes it really very Kyrie Irving.
What we do know is that he's alive. He's fine. He is probably just home. Kyrie was out at a New Jersey club at some point in the last few nights celebrating his sister's birthday. She and Irving's father both have a birthday today (January 12).
That's probably an annoying thing to see for Nets fans. Probably the Nets too, but whatever, right? Unexcused absence or not, he's allowed to celebrate the birthday of an immediate family member. Or really anyone. It would be nice to see him, uh, not in a crowded club without a mask, but this is America. He can do whatever he wants.
But after the absence and the being out in public you have to ask, why isn't he playing basketball? Or should we take this to its natural conclusion? Are we going to see Irving play basketball ever again? Seriously. Is he done? What have you heard over the last week that makes you think he's actually going to play basketball again?
Taking off a game or two is understandable. Needing a mental health day at some point over the last year is understandable. There was a moment inside the Disney bubble where the entire league almost walked away. There is a long list of shit that has happened over the last year that has sucked and any number of "incidents" worth reexamining life over. Last Wednesday was another one of those types of crossroad days. So if it was Kyrie's breaking point, he's probably not alone.
But he's still technically a professional basketball player right now. It's been a week. He's been out to celebrate a birthday or two. He's with his family. He's within driving distance of work. He has a job where he is paid handsomely and part of that job really is the public knowing what he's up to. People are betting on these games so they need to know if he's going to be there. Seriously! And how do the Nets really feel about this? At what point does someone in the organization say you really have to show up for work.
The Nets play the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday and then have home games against Orlando and Milwaukee. Will he be at any of these games? Probably not since he will probably need to quarantine since he was out at a club without a mask over the weekend. Does anyone know anything about his plans to return? The Nets have dropped two straight games and sit at 5-6 right now.
When - if? - he does come back, will he address where he's been? This is the same guy who tried to avoid the press completely by releasing statements at the start of the season. Do you remember that? All the way back on December 4th when he "said" this. Via ESPN:
"I am committed to show up to work every day, ready to have fun, compete, perform, and win championships alongside my teammates and colleagues in the Nets organization."
What a thing to put into writing a month before, completely out of the blue, you literally stop showing up for work every day.
Kyrie is clearly in a different head space than many people right now. To put it in sports terms, he's built different. He questioned the shape of the earth. He made a feature length movie out of a soft drink commercial. He asked about adult beverages in the Disney bubble and then found out as an injured player he wasn't invited. He then tried to stop the bubble from happening and suggested players start their own league.
He's a guy who thinks he has a lot of irons in the fire, but his motivations and goals are vague or non-existent right now. He's incredibly talented at basketball and has clearly worked very hard at his craft, but then he disappears in the middle of a season without explanation.
It doesn't seem outrageous to ask if he's going to return this season. If he does, how confident are you that he won't announce his retirement the minute his team's season is over? Or on the eve of the NBA Finals or the Nets 2021 training camp or some other random day?
He clearly isn't interested in basketball right now. If he was, he'd be playing basketball. And that's fine! It's his right. He's his own person which he would probably tell you if he ever spoke to someone. Some days you just aren't interested in your job. Sometimes you wish you were doing something else. Kyrie Irving has the right to do that and he has the money for it to work out for him if that's where he is in life right now. He's not hurting anyone but the Nets and we know they'll be alright if Kyrie suddenly walks away because he already has.
There is nothing that Kyrie Irving could do that would surprise you at this point. Anything from showing and dropping 50 on the Knicks on Wednesday to announcing a presidential bid on Instagram as the game tips off and everything in between. Only Kyrie Irving knows. Maybe.