Kyrie Irving return shows why the Nets would make an exception

the Nets find themselves in a basketball paradox: They have championship aspirations, but it might be in their best interest to lose a ...

the Nets find themselves in a basketball paradox: They have championship aspirations, but it might be in their best interest to lose a few more games on their way to the playoffs – and fight their way into a lower seed once arrived.

What good is hosting a Game 7, after all, if one of your biggest stars can only play road games?

That was one of the questions that swirled around Wednesday night when the Nets entered a new phase of their bizarre season by welcoming Kyrie Irving back – part-time, just in road games – after exiling him during the first two months of the season because of his choice to remain unvaccinated against the coronavirus.

Irving’s decision made him ineligible for games at the Nets arena in Brooklyn, a city where players must be vaccinated, and for months the Nets had insisted they wouldn’t accept. not even an Irving talent player in a part-time role. But last month, in the midst of a coronavirus outbreak that had depleted the list, the team gave in. And in just four quarters on Wednesday in Indianapolis, Irving, a seven-time All-Star, made it easy to see why the Nets made that call.

After a somewhat rusty start, Irving found his rhythm and began to look like the star the Nets signed in free agency in 2019. He helped get the Nets out of a 19 points behind the Indiana Pacers, en route to a 129-121 victory, finishing with 22 points, 3 rebounds and 4 assists. Ten of those points came in the fourth quarter, when the Nets passed the Pacers.

“I’ve made a lot of debuts, but nothing comes close to this one,” Irving said. “It meant a bit more. Just because at this point, going eight months or being eight months away and coming back, there is so much uncertainty.

It was certainly unusual. And to underline his clumsiness, Irving will be out of the roster again: the Nets’ next two games are at home in New York, where his vaccine status prevents him from playing due to a policy put in place by the city. the former mayor, Bill de Blasio, and this applies to sports arenas and public places like gymnasiums and restaurants.

If Irving is still unvaccinated, he will be available – barring other injuries or absences – for 21 of the team’s remaining 46. regular season games. (Local health restrictions mean that in addition to games in Brooklyn, Irving also cannot play games against the Raptors in Toronto or the Knicks in Manhattan.)

With the lists becoming difficult to fill, wave after wave of players being kicked out due to coronavirus protocols, the Nets have chosen to treat Irving like a recurring guest star – someone they hope they can make high-impact cameos in. their quest to win a championship. Wednesday offered a preview of the obvious benefits of the on-again-off-aga solution the Nets have chosen.

“His game is so beautiful,” star forward Kevin Durant said of Irving. “Makes the game so much easier for everyone. “

It only took half for the rust to be released. Irving showed his vision for the field with a low-key pass to Nic Claxton in the second quarter. He showed his ability to create space for himself outside of the dribble and provided an additional shooter on the ground. When the game was close, Irving provided the final push for the Nets.

Most importantly – at least in the games he plays – Irving offers the Nets a reliable option to relieve James Harden and Durant. On nights when Irving is available, coach Steve Nash will have the option to seat Harden and Durant at the same time and allow Irving to lead the attack with bench units. Irving draws in defenders, leaving room for players like LaMarcus Aldridge and Patty Mills to get open jumpers. He can also give Durant and Harden more freedom to move around without a ball.

Put simply, the Nets have been a barely above par offensively this season, with an offensive rating that ranks 12th among the NBA’s 30 teams despite the presence of Durant and Harden. They will now be able to inject one of the best offensive players in the league into their squad, sometimes.

Asked about Irving’s performance on his return, Nash paused.

“Looks like himself,” Nash said with a laugh. He added: “You can see the rhythm was there, but it’s still an adaptation. We have to give him some space.

With this space, the team is betting that having a part-time star is more important than building continuity. It’s a great experience to mix a star in and out of a starting lineup. And this group of stars – Irving, Harden and Durant – had little time to perform together. Last season, when Durant returned from injury and Harden was added in a trade, the three rarely spoke together.

“It’s going to take a while just because we have to get used to him being on the road and not at home, things like that,” Harden said. “But it’s been a resilient bunch all year.”

After the match, Harden tweeted a photo of Irving with the caption: “It’s good you’re back king.”

Due to Irving’s availability, however, it’s not clear that the Nets would have to work very hard to win as many regular season games as possible. The more wins, the higher the seed. The higher the seed in the playoffs, the more home games there are in the playoffs, which means less Irving.

The nets are 24-12, placing them second in the Eastern Conference. But while the prospect of winning by losing more seems absurd, it also raises questions about the credibility of the Nets.

Prior to the recent wave of players entering league health and safety protocols, the Nets had argued that having Irving as a part-time player would be a barrier to promoting a healthy culture. In October, after the team had definitively declared that Irving would not be allowed to be a part-time player, general manager Sean Marks said in a statement that to win a championship, “Every member of our organization has to shoot. in the same direction. “

Somewhere during the season, as the Nets found themselves hunting for healthy bodies to complete their roster, Marks and the rest of the Nets’ management pivoted. All that stuff about shooting in the same direction? It does not matter.

But the Nets didn’t need players. Not really. When Irving spoke on Wednesday, the Nets’ full roster was available with the exception of Joe Harris, who is injured. Irving’s comeback was about the Nets to want Irving on the team. Nothing else, after all, had changed. When asked after the game if his stance on vaccination had changed, Irving objected, saying, “It’s not an ideal situation.”

But what will stop the next star player from trying to take half the season? Or make other unusual requests? And how would the Nets be taken seriously if they said no?

None of these questions, of course, nor any other about Irving’s situation will matter if the Nets win a championship.

As for his vaccine status, Irving said he “was praying that things would be sorted out and that we could come to a collective agreement, whether it was with the league or just on the things that were going on.”

He added: “However, it seems later in the season, we’ll get to that then.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Kyrie Irving return shows why the Nets would make an exception
Kyrie Irving return shows why the Nets would make an exception
Newsrust - US Top News
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