In two appearances on ESPN Thursday morning, Amar’e Stoudemire disclosed he has left the Nets where he was a player development assistant last season and in a swipe at Kyrie Irving, said the superstar’s absence — the result of his refusal to get vaccinated — had hurt the Nets and particularly their chemistry.
Although Stoudemire made his announcement—which caught some in the organization off-guard—on get-up with Mike Greenberg, he made his most critical remarks about Irving and his effect on team chemistry earlier in talking to Stephen A. Smith and Jay Williams on First Take.
Here’s Stoudemire answering Stephen A’s question about whether Irving’s absences hurt the Nets…
“Yeah, 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,” he told Smith describing how his play as a part-timer between January and March made things particularly difficult.
“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.”
Overall, Irving played in 29 games, only six of them at home while the Nets used 43 different starting lineups in 82 games. Asked by Williams about the chemistry between Irving and James Harden before the trade deadline blockbuster, the 10-time All-NBA player simply reiterated that Irving’s absence hurt the “total group.”
“I’m not sure it hurt between James Harden and his teammates,” he told Williams and Smith. “Obviously, we couldn’t build the total chemistry with the total group, with those three guys, for James, Kev and Kyrie to play at the same time. We didn’t have a lot of game experience with those three guys on the court. So I can’t really comment on those three guys together but it didn’t help.”
Stoudemire did take issue with Stephen A.’s comment that Irving and coach Steve Nash, his long-time Suns teammate, couldn’t co-exist on the Nets.
“I don’t agree with that. I think Steve and Kyrie can both figure it out,” he told Smith. “I feel Kyrie has to make a commitment himself to the game of basketball. on how committed he is to being a great player because I feel like Kyrie should have been on the Top 75 list. But at the same time, you have to now take that as motivation going into next season and proving, prove to yourself that you are a top player and do it consistently throughout the season. “
We get-up, after announcing, “I decided not to go back with the Nets for next season,” Stoudemire first praised Sean Marks for his comments at Wednesday’s end-of-season press conference, then suggested ways for the Nets to resolve issues with Irving — and by extension with his best friend, Durant. He called for a “sitdown” between Marks on one hand and his two superstars on the other as well as some contractual language that would provide the Nets with other options should Irving miss games next season. Without such commitments, Stoudemire questioned whether the Nets should bring Irving back…
“I think Sean Marks is doing a great job trying to bring back the power to his hands and to make sure he is in control of the situation,” he told Greenberg and Jalen Rose.
“But I do think with Kevin and Ky, he’ll have a real sitdown,” Stoudemire said of the Nets GM, “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.”
As for the contract language in any extension, Stoudemire said he believed something has to be done contractually, not just verbally. Otherwise, he said Irving can “renege” and the Nets would be left without a way to hold him accountable.
“I also think what has to happen is in negotiating with Kyrie going forward, you have to add these conversations inside the contract.
“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 and if that’s the case you’d have this situation where he says he’s going to be available but he doesn’t, 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,” he told Greenberg.
He and Rose admitted such language would be difficult for Irving — or any player — to accept, And indeed it is exceedingly rare, as all three agreed.
“It’s tough. it’s a tough deal to do but because of the chemistry because of the situation with Kyrie now, not playing in all these games all this time, and missing all these games you have to figure out a way to try to make this work,” he said.
Still, Stoudemire said that if everything works out, the Nets still have the wherewithal to win it all but offered the caveat that it’s all about Kyrie’s commitment.
“I think so, i truly think so,” he said of the Nets opportunity next season. “If Kyrie comes back and plays the way he did when he did play this season, and a full season with a training camp and a full year under his belt, then they have a chance to build chemistry to win a championship.”
This is the second time in two days that someone in the organization has publicly criticized Irving in ways never before seen. Marks made it clear yesterday what he wants from the three-time All-NBA player.
“I think we know what we’re looking for,” said Marks who sat with Nash at the media availability at the HSS Training Center. “We’ve looking for guys that want to come in here and be part of something bigger than themselves, play selfless, play team basketball, and be available. That goes not only for Kyrie but for everybody here.”
Stoudemire played with Nash from 2002 through 2010 and Nash recruited him last year to work primarily with big men. Stoudemire recently praised the job that Nash did this season, suggesting that he had dealt with all manner of issues, both on and off the court.
Irving wasn’t the only member of this year’s team that Stoudemire criticized. He slammed James Harden as well.
Stoudemire said Harden isn’t “in good shape,” doesn’t “take his body seriously” and “not being able to be focus on that in the off-season and getting yourself prepared in training camp and through the season and get to this point. And I don’t think that happened for him this past off-season and throughout this season.”
Moreover, Stoudemire said that if he was the owner of the 76ers, he’d be very wary of handing Harden a max contract, which in his case would mean a five-year, $259 million deal with a salary of more than $61 million in the final year when he’d be 37.
“I cannot commit to that if I’m the owner of the Sixers,” added Stoudemire. “I just don’t see the dedication that I will need to see from one of the top 75 players. You have to have a certain level of dedication and focus to be the best player you can possibly be and also be there for your teammates when they need you the most.
“In Game 6 you’re going to need him to play at a high level and if he’s not capable of that, and as a max player, I’m not now willing to now give you a max contract if you’re not showing me you can handle this situation.”