"I reached out to make sure nothing was taken out of context -- making sure that the guys knew exactly what I meant," Irving said on Friday after practice. "And that is the only thing that matters. Everyone can say, 'If I was in this position, I would've said this, I would've done this.' They have have no idea because they've never been at this level, so how could you even comment on it?"
He continued: "I'm going to continue to push," Irving said. "I'm going to continue to demand greatness out of myself and demand greatness out of my teammates and we go from there. If it's harsh as a leader or too much for anybody, if you're not in our locker room, stay the f--- out. It's as simple as that."
Following Wednesday night's loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, Irving told reporters that he felt it was "glaring" that the Nets "need one or two more pieces to complement" himself, Kevin Durant, DeAndre Jordan, Garrett Temple, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert.
Irving, Durant, Jordan and Temple are each in their first season with the Nets, with Durant expected to miss the entire season as he recovers from an Achilles injury. Irving himself has missed 26 games with a right shoulder impingement, with Wednesday's game being his third since returning.
Irving insisted that his comments after the Sixers game were not meant to implore the Nets' front office to make significant moves before the Feb. 6 trade deadline. Instead, Irving said, he was trying to give an honest assessment of where the Nets are nearly midway through the season. Currently, Brooklyn holds an 18-22 record -- good for eighth in the Eastern Conference. The eighth seed, though, is not the goal Irving had for the Nets when the season began.
"I think we have championship aspirations," Irving said. "Do we want to be the eighth seed going into the playoffs? The seventh seed? But you're able to be real with the team that you have here, and you're able to collectively, cohesively come together as a group. That is what you figure out. But the goals are still to win a championship. I don't come in every day to frickin' be mediocre or to be in the middle of the standings."
"The most important thing is making sure these guys -- they have the belief in themselves and I continue to reiterate that confidence we have as a team. It is going to come down to that in order to be at a championship level to compete against the West, we need more. It is what it is."
Irving admitted on Friday that he could have "reworded" his comments after the game in Philadelphia and said that he probably should have "said a few names so it didn't feel like no one was getting underneath the bus, like I was not leaving anyone out."
Irving's comments in Philadelphia once again opened the door to debate the All-Star point guard's leadership abilities. Irving has publicly criticized his teammates before. After one loss to the Magic in January 2019 when Irving was playing for the Boston Celtics, Irving told reporters, "The young guys don't know what it takes to be a championship team."
Whether or not it was meant maliciously, it caused a rift in the Celtics' locker room. In Brooklyn, though, Irving's teammates have continually praised his leadership. Irving said on Friday that he doesn't have control over the narrative that he is a bad leader, and all he can do is "continue to be a pillar in our locker room."
The Nets' schedule doesn't get easier in the upcoming week. On Saturday, they face the Milwaukee Bucks, the No. 1 team in the NBA. Then they host Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Lakers.
"I feel like they've taken this dominative approach where they're just coming in and smashing teams," Irving said of the Bucks.
The Nets will be without Jordan for a few games. The center dislocated his finger against the 76ers. The team said the injury will not require surgery and that Jordan will be reevaluated the week of Jan. 20.
Kyrie: I don't come in here everyday to be mediocre
Kyrie Irving speaks with the media about his and the Nets' championship aspirations.
Pippen: Kyrie is struggling to be a leader
Scottie Pippen wants Kyrie Irving to step up and be a better leader with the Nets.