The Nets said Saturday that they found out about Kyrie Irving’s trade demand not from their teammate, but from Twitter.
Now, after having their franchise rocked by the All-Star’s sudden desire to leave — preferably before the trade deadline this coming Thursday — they were left to pick up the pieces and play with what’s left. And that doesn’t include Irving, who sat out Saturday against the Wizards with an injury that was as sudden as it was conspicuous.
“I was taking a nap and I looked in one of my group chats and I saw it and I was like, ‘Wow,’ ” starting center Nic Claxton said of how he learned of Irving’s trade request Friday. “Just caught me off guard. But it is what it is.”
Royce O’Neale also said he learned of Irving’s demand on social media, with no more advance notice than any average fan got.
“Same way [as] everybody else: Twitter,” said O’Neale. “[I was] surprised. But I mean, it’s a new day. We get the hoop today.”
The Nets had to hoop with a gutted roster. They were already without Kevin Durant, Ben Simmons and T.J. Warren due to injuries before Irving’s injury surfaced. Even Friday, after Irving told the Nets he wanted to be traded, he was not listed in the injury report against Washington.
“I said to them, we’re not gonna make this weird. We’re here to play, we’re here to do a job, show up and do your job,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said. “I said you’ve done the first step of this thing is we’re here, we’re showing up. Let’s do the work to get a win tonight. And that’s what I’m going to continue to try to focus them on. That’s what I’m focused on and I look forward to try and get a win.”
It wasn’t until Saturday afternoon that Irving suddenly appeared on the injury report with right calf soreness. He didn’t take part in the team walk-through and he didn’t play against Washington. But Irving — who regularly gets the loudest cheers at Barclays Center, even louder than those for Kevin Durant — drew boos when his face was shown on the scoreboard before the game Saturday night.
Asked if Irving had let the team down, Vaughn said he wouldn’t speculate on what others felt. Pressed on his own view, he said: “I think you have responsibility as a basketball player like I do as a coach. I show up, I do my job every single day. That’s what I signed up for. And that’s my expectations for one through 17.”
Irving has had a contentious relationship with the Nets, one that has grown more strained over the past two years. A pending free agent this summer, he was seeking a four-year, $198.5 million extension.
While the Nets offered him a multi-year deal within the last week, he was offended at the stipulations that the team put in for the final season.
“I didn’t ask those questions. There’s a business side to this thing and there’s a human side to this thing,” Vaughn said. “I elected to touch on the human side and check on him as an individual. I’ll leave the business side to [general manager] Sean [Marks] and that group.
“I’m not going to speculate on stuff that’s out there that’s been reported. My job is hopefully to stay consistent. Hopefully I’ve been that way with you guys and with our group. And I touched base with our guys every single one of them [Friday].”
TNT and Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes reported that Irving’s rift with the Nets stems from a championship stipulation, and that he was so vexed by it that now he refuses to re-sign with Brooklyn even if the team were to capitulate and offer him the full, unconditional max deal that he’s eligible for with them.
Both Claxton and O’Neale spoke with Irving, but neither would hazard a guess as to whether there was a window to change his mind.
“I have no idea. I mean, no idea. I just work here at the end of the day,” said Claxton, who added he hasn’t and won’t try to sway Irving. “No. That’s not my job. My job is to come out here everyday and compete at the highest level, stay healthy and help my team win basketball games.”
Asked if Irving was letting the Nets down, Claxton said he wasn’t.
“No. I mean at the end of the day we’re all our own individuals and we have to do what’s best for us and if that’s what a grown man thinks is best for him to do then that’s best for him to do,” Claxton said. “I can’t judge anybody for what they want to do.”