Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai says basketball players are ‘very difficult’ to manage

Brad Sullivan
4 Min Read
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai has apparently come to the conclusion that maintaining control of the team’s players is a difficult task.

Tsai, who is also the executive vice chairman of Alibaba Group, offered those thoughts on Wednesday during the BEYOND Expo 2023 technology conference in Macao.

“Believe me, I manage a basketball team and the players are very difficult to manage,” said Tsai. “If you’re in Hollywood, it’s very, very difficult to manage people.”

The context for Tsai’s remarks was a discussion involving artificial intelligence (AI) and how it will affect the entertainment industry.

Tsai first purchased 49 percent of the Nets in 2018 and then assumed full ownership of the team a year later. As the team’s owner, he’s experienced plenty of excitement as well as uncomfortable moments because of the franchise’s personnel.

In 2019, the Nets signed free agent guard Kyrie Irving and also acquired forward Kevin Durant in a sign-and-trade deal with the Golden State Warriors. The Durant acquisition was notable since it was already known that Durant’s Achilles injury would likely cause him to miss the entire 2019-20 season.

Upon Durant’s return in the 2020-21 season, the Nets completed a blockbuster deal in January 2021 to acquire guard James Harden. That deal offered Nets fans hope that the trio of superstars would help deliver the franchise its first NBA title.

That vision never materialized, thanks to a number of different issues. Most prominent among those concerns was the controversial decision by Irving to not receive the COVID-19 vaccination. Due to a New York City vaccine mandate, Irving was prevented from playing in home games on the Nets’ home court at Barclays Center for a decent amount of the 2021-22 season.

Irving was actually held out of Nets games for the first three months of the 2021-22 season. Tsai then partially rescinded his decision and allowed Irving to play in road contests.

Eventually, the vaccine mandate was eased, allowing Irving to play in all games.

Harden was never able to establish the right chemistry with the Nets and got traded to the Philadelphia 76ers just a year after getting acquired by Brooklyn. The key player the Nets received, Ben Simmons, has been a disappointment due to his own batch of controversies and health struggles.

This season, Irving was suspended after he shared a controversial video on social media. The Nets later traded him to the Dallas Mavericks.

Durant also dealt with injuries during his time with the Nets. Last offseason, he asked to be traded, a request that was eventually granted this past February.

With the Nets looking ahead to the future, Tsai’s effort to get the right players in the lineup remains a stiff challenge. His management skills will continue to be tested, though acquiring talented players that deliver remains a high priority.

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Brad has written on a variety of both NBA and NFL topics and has worked previously as a sports information director at the collegiate level. A lifetime fan of sports, he's witnessed countless great moments in different sports and understands that stories can be compelling from both the perspective of winners and losers. As a frustrated fan of Cleveland sports, he experienced something unprecedented when the Cavaliers won the city's first championship in 52 years.