EMPIRE OF THE SUNS
Suns are reportedly potential suitors for Kyrie Irving. Why?
It would have been difficult to pitch an All-Star coming to the Phoenix Suns in a blockbuster trade resulting in much, if any, negative feedback. We have been waiting for some time, you know.
But congratulations universe, you have presented us the loophole.
The Suns are potential suitors for Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving after Irving demanded a departure six days away from the trade deadline, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes later reported Phoenix makes sense as a team that could construct a deal that keeps both teams in contention.
Let’s first focus on the way those reports are phrased and the use of “potential.”
Alright, though, I’ll bite.
The list of reasons Irving does not make sense for the Suns themselves is as long as the list of Chris Jericho’s holds.
For one, Irving’s current contractual status.
He is on a $36 million expiring contract. If he’s traded, that tenure with his team could last six months and then Irving could bolt somewhere else in free agency. That, in and of itself, is a reason why the Nets’ return won’t yield much.
And then there’s his track record. Oh, his track record.
Irving left the Cleveland Cavaliers after demanding a trade in 2017. He went to the Boston Celtics, where his stay was more or less a disaster, before he said at a season ticket holder event in 2018 he was committing to Boston ahead of his free agency the next summer. He signed with the Brooklyn Nets.
Last offseason, Irving had what I feel fair as labeling a soft trade request. The notion was reported he could decline his player option and make a sign-and-trade happen with another team before all the drama was for nothing and he triggered his player option.
And now his latest trade request. Six days before the trade deadline.
Does that sound like a guy you can be sure will re-sign with your team as an unrestricted free agent?
Whatever assets are given up for him have a good chance of being surrendered for just one crack at it this season.
But what would a deal entail?
To go back to Irving’s number of $36 million, a salary of that size is nearly impossible to match up 1-for-1. It would require multiple players.
Let’s play along with the foolish notion the Nets would accept an expiring contracts platter built around Jae Crowder, Dario Saric and a draft pick or two, with more salaries still necessary. Now is Irving coming off the bench? Are the Suns starting three guards? Who are Irving and Chris Paul guarding?
That’s not happening. So that’s where we arrive at, yes, a deal centered around Paul.
Looking strictly at the basketball fit, I get it. Irving is much more of a scorer than Paul and is seven years younger, which gives Devin Booker more ball-handling relief from someone he is pals with that has a championship pedigree. Irving has been expectedly terrific this year when he plays. He’s averaging 27.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.0 steals per game on 48.6% shooting from the field. His true shooting percentage is 60.4%, which would be the third highest of his career.
But it would take time for that chemistry to build with not only Booker, but Irving’s other new hypothetical Suns teammates. The playoffs start in 71 days. Continuity at a title-winning level can’t be created at the snap of a finger and Irving would change the entire way the Suns play.
Paul is battle tested through an NBA Finals run and a 64-win regular season with this Suns group. Even though his consistency at an All-NBA level has waned on a night to night basis this year, he is the floor general of this team. When Mikal Bridges has commanded the late-game offense lately, the ghost writer on that has been Paul. He’s the one making those play calls. Replacing that on-court and off-court leadership with. … Kyrie Irving. Got it.
I can’t even get sold on the short-term fit, so to circle back to the long term, I ask the question of if the Suns really want to do this to themselves after all they’ve been through the last year-plus.
The Robert Sarver accusations of racism, misogyny and bullying inside a toxic workplace were followed by the league’s investigation bringing on his selling of the team. The dread that carried over the Suns’ media day of players forced to talk about it led to their mood misrepresenting how they felt about the upcoming season.
The Suns are so close to slamming the door shut on that off-court saga. I have no clue why they would want to bring in a guy synonymous with off-court sagas.
A guy whose latest was sharing a documentary with antisemitic views and then refusing to answer a question of if he has antisemitic beliefs or not, all while initially defending his post. Irving was later suspended eight games for that before apologizing and returning, saying he doesn’t stand for “anything close to hate speech or antisemitism.”
Off the court, Phoenix is in the process of rebuilding its in-house culture with Sarver on the way out and Mat Ishbia on the way in.
On the court, the Suns’ patience while waiting to make a big-time trade it has all the assets to execute on has been the signature ingredient brewed into a fanbase’s current state that borders on irate at this point.
With all that going on, Irving is the guy? Really?