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Kyrie unplugged: Irving sounds off on media

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For Irving, the message is the medium.

NBA: All Star-Practice Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

On the eve of the NBA ramping back up and the Celtics’ final regular season game against the East-leading Milwaukee Bucks, Kyrie Irving was again critical with the media. In a wide-rangning interview with The Jump’s Rachel Nichols, he talked about the challenges of taking on a leadership role, the strain of this “trying year,” his relationship with LeBron James, and the difficulties incorporating so much young talent onto one team.

In his defense, these questions have become a sort of greatest hits album because the media has constantly turned these all into narratives for this season. Any beat reporter or national media member with a quarter can stick a mic in his face like he’s a human jukebox.

Here’s the most poignant point from the Nichol’s sit down:

“A lot of people don’t realize on the outside that a lot of things that are said get into the locker room. A lot of things that are put in headlines get into locker rooms. Media has broken up locker rooms.

It’s been done before where you say something and it’s misinterpreted and instead of addressing it with the person and individual, like human interaction, you read it on your phone, you read it on a text.

Someone says to you, ‘hey, did you see what this person said about you?’ and it’s your teammate. You’re like, ‘I didn’t hear that.’ You hold back, you don’t say anything to them and then throughout the season, it ends up coming out again.

It’s just not how life is supposed to go. It’s a unique position, but I’m appreciative that I can have this understanding now. It’s fun, but at the same time, it’s energy-taxing.”

That interview was presumably recorded during the All Star break, but during his press availability yesterday in Milwaukee, speculation over his impending free agency took center stage again, this time under ridiculous circumstances.

In Charlotte, an unauthorized video was taken of Irving and Kevin Durant chatting in the bowels of the Spectrum Center before the All-Star Game. It appeared to be a casual conversation between two good friends, but Twitter lip readers (and Knicks fans) speculated that the two superstars were discussing two max slots opening up in New York. From the time that Durant won MVP to today, the video clip has lit NBA social media on fire.

When asked about it, Kyrie was understandably salty. It was a perfect example of the irresponsible gotcha journalism that has found an energy source from rumors, innuendo, and hearsay. Here’s the exchange between Irving and the media:

For the sake of full context, here’s the video:

Irving repeated his criticism of the caricatures that NBA social media has painted of the players and how it “ruins locker rooms.” One part of me thinks that if it’s all “fictitious” and pure speculation, it shouldn’t bother the players. They know what really happens in their locker rooms so everything else is just noise. But I’m also Team Kyrie. Sports coverage has become equal parts tabloid and hot takes and less about analysis and storytelling.

What I’ve liked about Irving over the last two years has been his brutal honesty and frankly, his uncensored approach to the media and lack of awareness with public relations. His declaration in October that he plans on re-signing with the Celtics in July seemed genuine. It felt like he wanted to break that news as soon as possible because he was excited. The Nike commercial he wrote about his father and retiring his number to the rafters may have been more polished statement of intention, but it came off sincere and from his heart. So, when he lashes out at reporters for distorting his words or taking things out of context, it’s hard not to take his side.