Nets' Kyrie Irving vows to protect Kevin Durant

Field Level Media/Reuters

Posted at Sep 28 2019 01:24 AM

Kyrie Irving recounted the ups and downs of eight seasons in the NBA and believes the road traveled brought him home to New York and the Brooklyn Nets.

"I'm incredibly grateful to be here. It's been a journey, I've taken numerous steps in different perspectives -- failed and succeeded," Irving said Friday at Nets media day. "First and foremost, I wanted to reach out to Brooklyn to let them know my interest is very high. And I had some pieces that I wanted to bring with me as well. This is the perfect place to do it.

"I wanted to get to know the front office in a way that we had longevity and time to jell. ... Really make this feel like home."

On his list of priorities in the offseason, Irving said he first had to acknowledge the steps it took to get to free agency. 

After starting his NBA career in Cleveland and being traded to the Boston Celtics, Irving wanted to understand where he's been, but not let history force his decision. 

Irving said he feels as if he failed -- but learned -- as a leader with the Celtics. He said he reached out to general manager Danny Ainge to let him know he cares about him as a human. 

Irving defined his failure in Boston as trying to be great as an individual, not as a team.

"Nine months ago (before free agency) I was sitting in front of a Boston crowd saying I wanted to come back," Irving said, adding that he was side-swiped off the court by the death of his grandfather. "Personal lives, seems like it's not important, but it's important to talk about the human being struggling as well. It was important to be honest about who I am, be honest with myself."

"Someone that close to me dying -- I've never dealt with anything like that. ... I barely got a chance to talk to my grandfather before he died because of basketball."

Irving said his unique relationships across the league -- with three newcomers he helped recruit, Spencer Dinwiddie, Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan -- were a huge factor. Irving believed in late June that Durant would join him in Brooklyn, but added "We had no idea what we were doing. We didn't know the rules. ... It happened in the spur of the moment on that day."

"It's 4:16 in the morning, morning of free agency, us just talking about our futures -- the opportunity ahead of us and the investment we had in one another and the investment we had in Brooklyn," Irving said of how the stars finally figured out their destiny. "They made us feel like All-Stars. ... Most important for me, the family atmosphere. They reached out to my family right away. It's very inclusive. ... We're here to build. First and foremost is our family."

Irving is ready to deflect any pressure that falls to Durant, who ruptured his Achilles in the NBA Finals with the Golden State Warriors, to get back on the court. The Nets don't plan to play Durant in 2019-2020.

"While he was injured, I made sure he knows he has our support 100 percent. There isn't going to be any pressure from any of us at any time to come back, and I'll make sure of it," Irving said, adding that he felt the Warriors put "selling a product" ahead of Durant's wellbeing. "He wasn't ready, whether anyone wants to admit it. He was out 31 days."

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