The moment we thought might never actually arrive is finally here. On Wednesday night, Kyrie Irving is set to make his season debut for the Brooklyn Nets. After missing almost the entire first half of the season due to a New York City vaccine mandate that will prevent him from playing home games, the Nets have relented and will allow the unvaccinated Irving to be a part-time player as they pursue their first championship in franchise history. His return couldn’t come at a better time for Brooklyn.
The Nets may still have the Eastern Conference’s second-best record at 23-12, but they’ve lost three consecutive games to cede the top spot to the Chicago Bulls. With the Milwaukee Bucks hot on their tracks, the Nets need a shot in the arm as the season’s midpoint arrives. Irving provides it, as well as the secondary ball-handling and scoring they’ve been lacking. When he’s on the floor, the Nets can limit the minutes and strain of Kevin Durant and James Harden.
This was a team built for three high-level scorers, and on Wednesday, we’ll get to see all three of them together for the first time all season. Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Irving’s debut.
- Date: Wednesday, Jan. 5 | 7:30 p.m. ET
- Location: Gainbridge Arena — Indianapolis
- TV: YES Network | Live stream: NBA League Pass; fuboTV (try for free)
- Odds: Nets -8 | Over/Under: 225 (via Caesars Sportsbook)
Featured Game | Indiana Pacers vs. Brooklyn Nets
Nets: What do you expect? It’s all things Irving. Eventually, you’d figure that Irving slides back into his role as a starting and high-usage point guard for Brooklyn, but it’s not fully clear how he’ll fit into the lineup right away. “I don’t think it’s where he can play 38 [minutes],” Nets coach Steve Nash said after shoot around Wednesday. “But I think he can play a big chunk of the game. He’s played a lot — he’s had three or four full-court days with the 5-on-5, so I think he’s capable of playing extended minutes, but not necessarily his customary high 30s.”
The Nets have a tough balancing act ahead of them. Assuming Irving can only play road games this season, he only has around 20 games in front of him to get in shape for the playoffs, and those games are spread out across the three months or so left in the regular season. The Nets not only need to get him up to speed, but get his teammates used to playing both with and without him. They aren’t back to full strength yet either, as Joe Harris remains out, so that’s another element the Nets will have to work to reintegrate later in the season. All in all, that makes this a particularly difficult coaching job for Nash. We know Irving will play. The real story will be how much, and how he is used.
Please check the opt-in box to acknowledge that you would like to subscribe.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox.
There was an error processing your subscription.
Pacers: Well… someone has to play against the Nets in Irving’s debut. It probably isn’t a coincidence that Brooklyn chose the 14-24 Pacers as his first opponent. Indiana has the No. 21 ranked defense in the league and figure to be an easy enough launching-off opponent for the Nets as they adjust to their new roster. The Pacers likely don’t mind their status as patsy too much, though. It’s been clear for some time that they’re about to kick off a rebuild.
Reports earlier in the season suggested that Indiana is finally ready to consider breaking up the Myles Turner-Domantas Sabonis center duo. Former Net Caris LeVert is also on the trade block, and with the NBA’s sixth-worst record, they won’t have far to fall if they want to play for a top draft pick. Showcase games for teams like that are rare, but the whole NBA world be watching tonight as Irving takes the floor. That’s a nice opportunity for their players to sell themselves to the rest of league ahead of the Feb. 10 trade deadline.
Sure, an eight-point line for a road team is a bit much, but it’s all Nets tonight. The last time we saw these three players on the floor at once, the Nets were dominating the Boston Celtics in the postseason last spring. Irving’s return, even if it provides only limited individual value in his first game, is going to provide a jolt of energy for the whole franchise. The Nets have three stars. The Pacers have none. Don’t overthink this. The pick: Nets -8