NEW YORK -- After weeks of using Instagram stories and written statements as his primary communication methods, Kyrie Irving spoke to reporters Monday morning after Brooklyn Nets practice and reflected on playing for the first time since February, being on the court with Kevin Durant and why he chose to violate the league's media rules.
"The focus is on what's going on in here," Irving said when asked about not speaking to reporters previously. "And I wanted to make sure that was clear, no distractions, nothing about dispelling anything, nothing about going back and forth."
Despite the league's requirement that healthy players be made available to the press corps before or after practices and games, Irving had not spoken to reporters throughout training camp, instead issuing a statement. That resulted in both Irving and the Nets being fined $25,000 last week. Irving responded to that fine on Instagram, saying, in part: "I pray we utilize the 'fine money' for the marginalized communities in need, especially seeing where our world is presently... I do not talk to Pawns. My attention is worth more."
Irving said Monday that the comment was not directed at any specific person or at journalists as a group.
"It's really just about how I felt about the mistreatment of certain artists when we get to a certain platform of when we make decisions within our lives to have full control and ownership ... We want to perform in a secure and protected space," he said.
While Irving didn't take part in any news conferences through training camp, his teammates and coaches repeatedly said he looked completely healthy. Irving had season-ending shoulder surgery in February and did not join the Nets in the NBA's restart in Orlando, Florida.
Irving said that after surgery, he had to "build himself back." On Sunday, he didn't appear to have any physical limitations and finished with 18 points and four assists in Brooklyn's preseason-opening win against the Wizards.
It was also the first Nets game in which Irving was able to play with Durant.
"It's a different show, it was a different stage, and it's a new beginning in terms of what we're building," Irving said. "And moving forward with the pieces that we have here. And that includes 7-11, so get to know us."
Training camp, Irving said, has given him a chance to get to know his new teammates and the coaching staff, including new coach Steve Nash. During a podcast hosted by Durant in October, Irving said that he didn't "see really see [the Nets] as having a head coach."
On Monday, he amended that statement.
"Steve's been amazing," Irving said. "He kind of commands the respect. I think I've got to take back my comments in terms of the head coach back a few months ago. But it's just like, man, we have such a great synergy. Everyone feels like we're coaching one another to be better, so I'm grateful for that."