Nets' Kyrie Irving defends leadership style, will 'continue to push'

Kyrie Irving on Friday stood by his criticism of some Nets teammates and defended his leadership style while also insisting he is not an "a—hole."

Irving, who joined the Nets as a free agent in the offseason, made headlines this week when he claimed after a loss that the team had "glaring" needs.

The six-time All-Star believes he was right to criticize his teammates, citing his career achievements as the basis for taking a leadership role.

GREER: Stephen A. hypes Giannis to Warriors after dogging KD?

"It's probably a telltale sign of the career that I've had, some of the moves that I've made individually and as well as coming to different environments or organizations," Irving told reporters at a team practice in a video shared by Sportsnet New York.

"At the end of the day, I always say it's an entertainment league. We're drama-filled, everything regurgitates on all these media platforms, which is part of our society. I can't really do anything about it, except really be a pillar in our locker room, be very communicative and when I'm out there with the guys, just impact winning, that's really what it comes down to.

"It's not like I'm an a—hole yelling at everybody in the frigging locker room all the time and you hear all these stories."

TRADE DEADLINE: Date, rumors, news, top targets

Irving also insisted he has earned the right to be respected and listened to by his teammates as he attempts to propel the Nets toward a championship.

"At the end of the day, my name . . . is in a lot of people's mouths all of the time," he said. "I've earned that respect in terms of how great I am as a player and there's still more goals I want to accomplish in this league, and I can't do it without improving an organization and winning a championship, and that's what it comes down to.

"I'm going to continue to push, 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 it's too much for anybody, you're not in our locker room; stay the f— out. It's as simple as that."

The Nets are eighth in the Eastern Conference with an 18-22 record. The conference-leading Bucks are next up on Saturday.