Kyrie Irving made his long-awaited return to the court for the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday, and long-standing questions about his leadership style followed right behind him.

The six-time all-star guard made waves after Wednesday’s loss to the Philadelphia 76ers when he suggested that the Nets needed “one more piece or two more pieces” to “complement” a core group that he said included himself, Kevin Durant, DeAndre Jordan, Garrett Temple, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert.

That statement, arguably accurate if Brooklyn expects to compete for a championship, raised eyebrows because it appeared that Irving was dividing the roster just days after coming back from a two-month absence because of a shoulder injury. In addition to his strange timing and matter-of-fact tone, Irving’s assessment recalled a similar incident last year, when he questioned the Boston Celtics’ younger players in comments that were seen as playing a role in the team’s disappointing campaign.

Irving attempted to clear the air Friday, defending his role as a team leader, explaining that his remarks were driven by his desire to win, and telling reporters that he had addressed his comments with his teammates.

“There’s still more goals I want to accomplish in this league,” Irving said. “I can’t do it without improving an organization and winning a championship. I’m going to continue to push, I’m going to demand greatness out of myself and my teammates. We go from there. If that’s harsh as a leader or it’s too much for anybody, if you’re not in our locker room, stay the [expletive] out. It’s as simple as that.”

As he has in the past, Irving suggested that saturation coverage by the media was having a distorting effect.

“It’s an entertainment league,” Irving said. “We’re very drama-filled. Everything regurgitates on all these media platforms, which is part of our society. I can’t really do anything about it except be a pillar in our locker and be very communicative. When I’m out there with the guys, just impact winning. That’s what it comes down to.

“It’s not like I’m an [expletive] yelling at everyone in the freaking locker room all the time. You hear all these stories. My name is given to me by my grandfather and I’m very grateful. It’s in a lot of people’s mouths all the time. It is what it is. I’ve earned that respect in terms of how great I am as a player.”

The Nets, who are waiting for Durant to return from a torn Achilles', enter Friday 18-22, which puts them in the East’s eighth playoff spot. Their tough upcoming schedule includes games against the Milwaukee Bucks, 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers. Irving, 27, has appeared in just 14 games this season, averaging 27.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 6.9 assists.

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