Kyrie Irving defends leadership, naming core teammates: ‘If it’s harsh … stay the f--k out’

Just days after publicly listing certain players, and omitting others, as key figures in the future of the organization, Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving said he has spoken with his teammates to clear the air. 

While he admitted that he could have “reworded” his comments, he stands by them and the leadership style he’s brought to Brooklyn in his first year with the franchise.

“I reached out to make sure nothing was taken out of context, making sure that the guys knew exactly what I meant,” Irving said Friday, via ESPN. “And that is the only thing that matters. Everyone can say, ‘If I was in this position, I would’ve said this, I would’ve done this.’ They have no idea because they’ve never been at this level, so how could you even comment on it?

“I’m going to continue to demand greatness out of myself and demand greatness out of my teammates and we go from there. If it’s harsh as a leader or too much for anybody, if you’re not in our locker room, stay the f--k out. It’s as simple as that.”

Irving spoke out after their 117-106 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday, which marked just his third game back after a lengthy shoulder injury. He was extremely honest in his assessment of the Nets, saying it was “glaring” that the team needed a few extra pieces to take them to the next level.

“We’re going to do the best with the guys we have in our locker room now, and we’ll worry about the other stuff, in terms of moving pieces and everything else, as an organization down the line in the summer,” Irving said.

“Collectively, I feel like we have great pieces, but it’s pretty glaring we need one more piece or two more pieces that will complement myself, [Kevin Durant], [DeAndre Jordan], [Garrett Temple], Spence [Dinwiddie], Caris [LeVert], and we’ll see how that evolves.”

Most notably, he left Joe Harris, Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince off that list.

Irving insisted that his comments weren’t meant to pressure the Nets’ front office into making any moves ahead of the trade deadline next month, either. Instead, he was just trying to be honest. Where the Nets are now — Brooklyn currently holds an 18-22 record, the eighth-best in the Eastern Conference — isn’t good enough for him.

“I think we have championship aspirations,” Irving said, via ESPN. “Do we want to be the eighth seed going into the playoffs? The seventh seed? But you’re able to be real with the team that you have here, and you’re able to collectively, cohesively come together as a group. That is what you figure out. But the goals are to win a championship. I don’t come in every day to frickin’ be mediocre or to be in the middle of the standings.”

Days after saying the Nets have “glaring” needs to fill, Kyrie Irving defended his comments and his leadership style in Brooklyn. (AP/Matt Slocum)

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