Finally, Kyrie Irving is back and was sorely missed by the Brooklyn Nets.
Part-time professional basketball player Kyrie Irving made his triumphant return to the NBA hardwood on Wednesday evening (Jan.5) when his Brooklyn Nets took on the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis. While fighting off rust, hell, it has been eight months since he bounced a basketball professionally, but he still managed to show just how important he is to a team that already has Kevin Durant and James Harden suiting up on a nightly basis.
Irving showed flashes of his former self, his handle was still buttery smooth, and he is still as crafty as ever. He gave his team a much-needed boost in the 4th quarter leading them to a 129-121 win. Irving capped off his return, dropping 22 points, four assists, three rebounds, and three steals in 32 minutes, helping the Nets erase a 19-point deficit thanks to some clutch baskets.
After the game, speaking to the press, Irving revealed he was excited and nervous about his return.
“Just a lot of gratitude just to be present tonight with everyone,” Irving said. “Just go out there and have fun doing what we love to do. It was a not-so-good first half for us, and we came in the locker room, and we knew that in order to build this identity that we want to have later in the season, we got to start now.”
Irving’s teammates, Kevin Durant and James Harden, were happy to see their all-star guard back on the court.
“It was amazing to have him out there,” Durant admitted. “I just missed his presence around the locker room, his energy, his vibe around the team. And then his game is just so beautiful. It makes the game so much easier for everybody out there. It was amazing to see him out on the floor again.
“The crowd showed him so much love, teammates, just the game of basketball is happy to have him back. He made the game so much more difficult for the Pacers, giving us a different attack, especially in the fourth quarter. We’ll just keep building on this,” he further added.
“It’s special,” Harden said. “It felt like he’s been playing all season. He looked comfortable as usual, his pace, his rhythm. It looked like Kyrie.”
But Irving is still a part-time player because he is still unvaccinated. Per New York City mandate, he cannot set foot on the Barclays Arena court until he gets at least one shot of either Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine. When asked if there is a possibitly Irving will finally get the jab, it was a word salad of nothing.
“Man, I’m just taking it one day at a time,” Irving said. “Like I said earlier in the season, it’s not an ideal situation and I’m always praying that things get figured out and we’re able to come to some collective agreement, whether it be with the league or it’s just things that’s going on that could help kind of ease what we’re all dealing with COVID-19 and the vaccine.
“I think everybody’s feeling it, so I don’t want to make it simply about me and someone lessening the rules for me. I know what the consequences were, I still know what they are, but right now, I’m just going to take it one day at a time, like I said, and just enjoy this time I get to play with my guys. And however it looks later in the season, then we’ll address it then,” he continued.
Well, Brooklyn Nets fans are surely happy to see Irving back. Stephen A. Smith, who is still recovering after catching COVID-19, definitely could care less. We won’t see Irving again till Monday when the Nets face the Trail Blazers in Portland.
Photo: Andy Lyons / Getty
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