15-year NBA vet Olden Polynice recently revealed that the rift between mercurial Brooklyn Nets star point guard Kyrie Irving and his head coach, former Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash, could stem from a comment Irving made, in Nash’s home, about who in his estimation deserved to win the 2005 and 2006 MVP awards that the seven-time All-Star received while playing for the Phoenix Suns.
The long-retired big man apparently remains fairly plugged into the NBA scene, as he was told about a gathering at Nash’s house where Irving apparently insulted his head coach.
During an interview on Fox Sports podcast The Odd Couple with Rob Parker and Chris Broussard last month, Polynice explained that Irving had attended a party at Nash’s home, and made a point to stir the proverbial pot:
“One of the reasons why there’s issues between he and Kyrie Irving is because of a statement [Irving] made during a party at Steve Nash’s house,” Polynice said. “Okay? In front of everybody, Kyrie said, you know, ‘You need to give those MVP trophies back to Kobe. You didn’t deserve them.’”
Irving suggests that Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant, not Nash, should have won both the 2005 and 2006 MVP hardware. Bryant, who finished fourth in 2006 MVP voting behind Nash, future Laker LeBron James, and Dirk Nowitzki, would go on to claim his lone league MVP award in 2008 on a much stronger Lakers team.
In a new chat with Bally Sports’ Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson, Polynice reasserted that his intel on the situation came from a trustworthy source:
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For some context, though Bryant may have enjoyed an impressive individual season in 2004-05, his team plummeted into the lottery during his first season without All-NBA center Shaquille O’Neal. Bryant did not even finish in the top 16 of MVP voting in 2005. In 66 games for the 34-48 Lakers, Bryant averaged 27.6 points, 60 assists, 5.9 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 0.8 blocks a night, posting .433/.339/.816 shooting splits. But being the best player on an NBA team that’s 14 games below .500 does not make an MVP. That’s just how the cookie crumbles.
Irving has a much stronger case for the 2005-06 season (as others at All Lakers have argued before), when head coach Phil Jackson returned to the fold and Los Angeles returned the postseason. The team finished with a 45-37 record, good for the seventh seed in the Western Conference. LA would go on to lose in seven hotly-contested games to Nash’s second-seeded Phoenix Suns during the first round of the playoffs.
That year, Bryant led the NBA in scoring with a career-best average of 35.4 points a game on .450/.347/.850, plus 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.8 steals.
Nash proved to be a much more efficient shooter, albeit with a much more limited shot diet. He averaged 18.8 points, 10.5 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 0.8 steals a game across 79 contests during his second straight MVP season on the 54-28 Suns. He also put up one of the most efficient scoring seasons ever to that point, still one of the few 50-40-90 shooting seasons in NBA history. Nash connected on 51.2% of his field goals, 43.9% of his 4.3 triples a night, and 92.1% of his free-throws. Phoenix eventually fell in six games to the Dallas Mavericks during the 2006 Western Conference Finals.
Yours truly would probably have put the 2006 performances of Tim Duncan (the best player on the reigning champion Spurs, who went 63-19 that season), Dirk Nowitzki (on the eventual runner-up Dallas Mavericks, who went 60-22) and Nash ahead of the Black Mamba mostly due to team record, which frankly should count for something. Duncan was the better two-way player, and Nowitzki and Nash the more efficient offensive players on better teams. I would rank Bryant’s season ahead of LeBron James’s with the 50-32 Cavaliers thanks to his explosive scoring (which included that historic 81-point outburst in Toronto) that year, though James finished second in league MVP voting to Nash.
To be fair, Irving’s opinions have gotten increasingly more unhinged lately, so one should take the seriousness of his apparent relationship-ruining outburst at the home of his current head coach with a grain of salt. Maybe he just wanted to irk Steve Nash, though he known to be a good friend of Bryant’s.
Polynice was selected by the Chicago Bulls with the eighth pick in the 1987 NBA lottery out of the University of Virginia, only to see his draft rights immediately flipped to the Seattle Supersonics for the rights to the fifth pick, which team president Jerry Krause used to draft Scottie Pippen out of the University of Arkansas. Probably the right call, Jerry.
At 7’0″ center, Polynice played for the Supersonics, Los Angeles Clippers, Detroit Pistons, Sacramento Kings, and Utah Jazz during his lengthy pro tenure, which also included stints for other leagues both stateside and abroad. He holds career NBA averages of 7.8 points per game on 50.5% shooting, along with 6.7 rebounds and 0.6 blocks a night, across 1,058 contests.