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Stoudemire appeared on ESPN’s “First Take” Thursday and detailed just how much Irving’s absence hurt the Nets. Irving refused to get a coronavirus vaccination and was ruled out by the organization at the start of the season. He returned to play away games before New York City dropped its mandate.
“I think it hurt us. It definitely hurt us because we didn’t have consistency enough with Kyrie to build chemistry with the group, with the team,” Stoudemire said, via Nets Daily. “He’s playing only away games depending which city it is … can’t play in New York … therefore we had different lineups, different matchups depending on the game schedule. So it made it difficult for us coaches to figure out who’s going to play in spite of Kyrie. So it was difficult for us to manage that. So yeah, it was part of that.”
Stoudemire also appeared on ESPN’s “Get Up” and called for Nets general manager Sean Marks to get some assurances from Irving going into the 2022-23 season should the guard decide to pick up his $36.5 million player option.
He said a meeting between Marks and the two superstars on the team – Irving and Kevin Durant – must happen.
“But I do think with Kevin and Ky, he’ll have a real sit-down. Because Ky, since he came to the Nets, has missed more games than he played. So I think you have a conversation: Two of your star players sit down in a room and say, ‘Kyrie what’s your goal? You want to be the best player in the game? Do you want to accomplish more in this league? What are your goals moving forward?’
“And if both understand that ‘Hey, we want to make this thing special here, want to win a championship,’ and he’s committed to playing in those games, then I think you bring him back.”
Stoudemire said any agreement would have to be worked out contractually.
“You can say you’re available and ready to play next season, but are you actually going to do that or are you going to renege on that and not play,” Stoudemire said. “And if that’s the case, you’d have this situation where he says he’s going to be available, but he doesn’t (play). Now what do we do? So now you have to negotiate that into the contract, in the writing, try to figure out a way to have the writing set in the contract to where if he doesn’t play these things happen.”
Irving played 29 games for Brooklyn after all the dust settled. He averaged 27.4 points and 5.8 assists per game. Brooklyn was swept in the first round of the playoffs.
It’s unclear whether Irving will be back with the Nets at this point. He said in his end-of-season press conference he wanted to be back.
“I don’t plan on going anywhere. This is added motivation for our franchise to be at the top of the league the next few years. When I say I’m here with Kev, I think that really entails us managing this franchise together alongside [owner] Joe [Tsai] and Sean [Marks], and our group of family members that we have in our organization,” Irving said, via FOX Sports. “I think we need to make some moves this offseason and really be intentional about what we’re building and just really worry about us.”