NBA: Irving brushes aside unflattering portrayal

An ESPN report said that Kyrie Irving has already clashed with players and team personnel, which sounds eerily similar to the divide he had at Celtics.

Kyrie Irving has performed well on the court in his first four games as a Net. He's second in the league averaging 35.3 points per game, though Brooklyn is 1-3.   -  GETTY IMAGES

The honeymoon phase for Kyrie Irving and Nets was cut short earlier this week when an ESPN report said the All-Star guard has already clashed with players and team personnel, which sounds eerily similar to the divide that led to his departure from the Celtics.

After a loss to the Pacers on Wednesday, Irving addressed the report in a way only he could: “I am not here to dispel any perception. I am here to be myself."

"Who cares what ESPN or anyone says?" Irving told reporters. "I love myself. I love my family. I love my friends. I love playing basketball.

"History has shown you can be the best teammate ever, somebody is still going to say something negative about what you’re doing or your life. That can’t be the importance: If you allow that to infiltrate your life … you’re going to be right where they want you to be emotionally. … I expect people to say things like that and I’m going to keep on smiling and doing me.”

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Irving has performed well on the court in his first four games as a Net. He's second in the league averaging 35.3 points per game, though Brooklyn is 1-3.

A lack of success in the win column, grouped with reports like ESPN’s and comments like Marcus Morris’ last week claiming the death of Irving’s grandfather last season affected his leadership ability, have put Irving under a microscope early. And without a healthy Kevin Durant to shoulder some of the Nets spotlight, Irving will likely deal with some level of scrutiny all season.

Fortunately for Irving, he’s used to pressuring and bad press.

"I don't have to be perfect for anyone here, nor do I have to be perfect for the public," Irving said.

Irving and the Nets will try to get the focus back on the court Friday as they host James Harden and the Rockets at Barclays Center.