Irving suspended for "at least" 5 games - without pay. How have the sportsbooks reacted?
In a move that many feel has come several days too late, the Brooklyn Nets have finally suspended Kyrie Irving, following his tweeting a link to an antisemitic documentary film. The suspension, confirmed by the Nets on Thursday 3rd Nov, will run for a minimum of 5 games, and is without pay.
After asking Irving to “unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs", and Irving's failure to do so, the Nets were left with no choice but to sanction Irving for both his tweet and his subsequent reluctance to address the matter in a way that would have satisified both the Nets and the NBA.
The Nets statement included:
“We were dismayed today, when given an opportunity in a media session, that Kyrie refused to unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs, nor acknowledge specific hateful material in the film. This was not the first time he had the opportunity — but failed — to clarify."
“Such failure to disavow antisemitism when given a clear opportunity to do so is deeply disturbing, is against the values of our organization, and constitutes conduct detrimental to the team. Accordingly, we are of the view that he is currently unfit to be associated with the Brooklyn Nets.”
Irving did finally apologize, of sorts, later yesterday evening on Instagram, with many fans and pundits drawing the obvious link between his suspension without pay, and his sudden desire to apologize. Strange.
“To All Jewish families and Communities that are hurt and affected from my post, I am deeply sorry to have caused you pain, and I apologize,” Irving wrote. “I initially reacted out of emotion to being unjustly labelled Anti-Semitic, instead of focusing on the healing process of my Jewish Brothers and Sisters that were hurt from the hateful remarks made in the Documentary.”
Even the FBI have become embroiled in the controversy, and are being reported by AP as saying they have received credible information about a threat to synagogues in New Jersey, which is Irving's home state.
The Nets claim to have made several attempts to guide Irving and help him realise the harm his tweet, and subsequent words and indeed lack of words would cause. But it was clear at Thursday's practice that Irving's attitude was almost unchanged.
Irving's only point at that stage was to say he meant no harm, and whilst some of the things in the film were untrue, "I’m not the one who made the documentary" - pointing out that he was entitled to post a link to it.
Again, according to AP, he was later asked to if he had any antisemitic beliefs, and he declined to say "no", simply saying "I cannot be antisemitic if I know where I come from" ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt reacted on twitter by saying “The answer to the question ‘Do you have any antisemitic beliefs’ is always “NO” without equivocation.
Greenblatt also announced that the ADL would be rejecting the $500,000 donation from Irving and the Nets.
This season's suspension is actually the second time in two years that Brooklyn has sent Irving away from the team, last year it was due to Irving's steadfast refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19, which made him ineligible for Brooklyn home games due to the regulations in place in NY State at the time. Initially the Nets stated that they were suspending him for all games, but eventually allowed him to rejoin the team for away gams outside of NY State.
With the Nets sacking coach Steve Nash on Tuesday, and the team dialling in a lacklustre 2-6 start, the season is starting to look like an uphill struggle for Brooklyn outfit. The sportsbooks have reacted, nudging Brooklyn from pre season odds of 10.00 and now list their Championship odds at 12.00 - which isn't much of a nudge, more like a tickle.
So why haven't the Nets' Championship Odds climbed much further?
Even after an absolutely rubbish start to the season, there is a long long way to go. The adage "it's a marathon not a sprint" is perfectly suited to NBA and for that matter MLB, where teams play a lot of games. This isn't soccer with teams playing between 20 and 40 games a season (depending on the league) - NBA teams are getting through that number of games in less than half a season!
NBA Seasons run for 82 games per season, so a bad start with a 75% loss rate can quickly swing round, and we've seen some pretty poor starts from some of the pre season market leaders.
But that is not the only reason why bookmakers are reluctant to start messing with the odds too much at this stage of the season. The NBA Play Ins have expanded the number of teams who can make it through to the post season. Where the NBA Play Offs meant the Top 8 teams from each conference made it through, now the NBA Play Ins expand that opportunity to teams from the Top 10 in each conference.
There are 15 teams in each conference, so now rather than just over 50% of teams making the Play Offs, 66% of teams have a crack at making the post season proper. So even after a very poor season, teams can redeem themselves via the Play Ins into the Play Offs. All lovely revenue earning opportunities for the NBA. #Nice.
So lets take a look at how the NBA Championship Odds have changed (if) for the Top 10 in the pre season betting, plus the Lakers because everyone always asks "what about the Lakers"
|Team (W-L)||Pre Season Odds||Nov 4th Odds|
As you can see, very little changes. The Bucks are absolutely flying, 7-0 (although 6 of the 7 games were at the snappily named Fiserv Forum (home court, for the uninitiated)) - but their odds have only dribbled down ever so slightly.
My beloved Celtics have seen a far bigger odds cut, and yet we have a distinctly average record 7 games in...but...the Nets were seen as big rivals in the Eastern Conference, the 76ers are struggling so far, and the Bucks are top, as their pre-season odds would expect.
So even with the 4-3 start for the Celtics, aside from the imperial Bucks, the other Eastern Conference pre-season favs are having a collective nightmare, thus the Celtics get slashed to 6.25
And as for the Nets, the topic at hand, can they still win the Championship? Well with the Play Ins system - yes of course they can, but in reality....looking at their current form, plus this latest fiasco, they'll be lucky to make the play-ins. So no. They won't.
Follow DJ Arthurs on Twitter at @DJArthursJourno