The Brooklyn Nets are somewhat whole again, having allowed Kyrie Irving back into the fold. The All-Star point guard is available for road games as he still hasn’t been vaccinated against COVID-19 and the team had their Big 3 all available for a recent game against the Chicago Bulls.
The Steve Nash-led team enjoyed their best win of the season, toppling the formidable Bulls 138-112. They’re now back to second in the Eastern Conference and are expectedly still pretty excited about having Kyrie back.
Nash has spoken on the situation with the guard, pointing out that he wants to ease him back gradually and isn’t looking to just pile as many minutes on him as possible.
“We would love for it to be gradual and a strategic allocation of minutes not just like, ‘Alright, great, we got a new Ferrari and we’re gonna wrack up miles,’” the head coach said.
Last week, reports began circulating with claims the Nets would be able to have Irving as a full-time star by paying fines to New York City but that has since been debunked and, for the time being, the former Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics guard remains a part-time player.
Irving has admitted it’s been a difficult period for him but he does enjoy watching from the sidelines, though he can only watch on his own or with his family.
“If you only understood how many people support the Nets from my hometown and also from where I’m from it’s a lot so sometimes it can be a little overwhelming, I can’t really go out and watch at a local bar or anything like that,” he explained.
“I would love to just be ‘man ok K [he calls his friend Kevin Durant ‘K’] shoot a shot, let’s [mimes drinking shots]. Nah I’m joking. But just having fun watching it and sometimes I gotta watch it alone and sometimes I get to watch with my family, so it’s just a balance.”
The Nets are still the favorites to win the NBA championship this year. They have been since the Milwaukee Bucks claimed it at the end of last season and kept the favorites tag all while they were without Kyrie. Their prospects are even greater now that they have him back, albeit not full-time, and the activity on the New York sports betting scene does point to that.
While the Nets have Irving back on a part-time basis, communication doesn’t take place all that often when he isn’t with the team. Nash was asked how much he speaks to his player on days when the guard isn’t allowed to be around the team prior to the Nets’ clash with the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday night and admitted it’s not all that much as he has his hands full on game days.
“Not a lot to be honest,” he explained. “I’ve got my hands full trying to communicate with the guys that are playing tonight and with my staff so I really don’t get to communicate with him much ’cause we’re just so inundated with tasks on a game day, with the game that night, with the players, coaching staff, performance, analytics, video, so it’s not straight forward where I get the chance to give him a call every day.”
The player still has access to all of the film he needs to prepare himself while away.
“Yeah, he has access to all our stuff,” Nash continued. “So he has full resources and ability to stay locked in. The number one thing for us right now with Kyrie even ahead of that cohesion is adaptation physically. It’s the different rhythm for him not just having a kind of long offseason so to speak, until the last week and a half but you can’t replicate NBA games. So it’s a process that we have to also be aware of.”
It’s going to be a tough and pretty novel challenge for Kyrie as he will not be playing as regularly as other active NBA players. Having gotten used to playing every other day over the span of 11 years, the 29-year-old will be away from the game for longer-than-normal stretches.
“He’s still adapting to demands, also adapting to a new cadence,” Nash remarked. “What did he do, he played one week, played a week later and then a couple days later. So it’s different, it’s something that we have to give him time to adapt to and to get to his best.”
Irving still isn’t in optimal game shape yet but, with games under his belt and enough workouts, he should be a force for the Nets at home during the playoffs as long as he remains healthy.
Meanwhile, the Nets will be without Kevin Durant for 4-6 weeks following an MCL sprain.