Brooklyn Nets All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving will finally make his season debut on Wednesday on the road against the Indiana Pacers, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania. This announcement comes just a couple weeks after the Nets decided that Irving could return to the team as a part-time player, only participating in road games as his unvaccinated status bars him from playing in New York City per local COVID vaccine mandates.
At the start of the season the Nets originally decided that they didn’t want Irving to only play in road games. That thinking changed in mid-December, but Irving’s debut was pushed back after he entered the league’s protocols just two days after the announcement that he would be rejoining the team. When Brooklyn coach Steve Nash was asked about when Irving would return to the floor for the Nets, he didn’t put a timeline on the star guard’s debut, noting that Irving needed to evaluated from both a physical and basketball standpoint, as he hasn’t played in an NBA game since the preseason when the Nets were in L.A.
Irving returned to practice last week and seems to be prepared enough to play on Wednesday, where the Nets will try to bounce back from a tough loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, where star forward Kevin Durant called out his team for its approach to the game. After that 120-116 loss to L.A., Durant said, “We’re going to continue to get our ass kicked if we don’t approach the game in the proper way.” With the return of Irving, the Nets are hoping that he can shoulder some of the offensive responsibility with Durant and James Harden.
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On paper, with Irving in tow, the Nets have the best collection of talent of any team in the league, but the issue has always been getting all that talent on the floor together playing at a high level. So far this season, the Nets have been relying heavily on Durant’s play, as Harden has struggled to score efficiently this season. Going back even further, since Harden was traded to Brooklyn last season, the trio of Durant, Irving and Harden have played just eight games together. But during those games they averaged 64 points when that trio shared the floor together, the most of any three-man lineup for the Nets. The team also went 6-2 during that span, showing that these three guys who have three NBA titles and two league MVPs between them can coexist.
But it won’t be easy, especially as Irving will only be available for road games for the foreseeable future unless he decides to get vaccinated or New York City changes its vaccine mandate. Without Irving this season, Brooklyn has managed to get out to a 23-11 start, good for second in the Eastern Conference. So when he isn’t able to play in home games, it won’t drastically hinder this team, but from a chemistry standpoint it could cause some issues. We’ll just have to wait and see how the Nets and Irving plan to navigate this issue for the remainder of the season.