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Wednesday, March 29, 2023

It’s Now or Never for Kyrie Irving to Build Chemistry and Put His Imprint on This Brooklyn Nets Season

Kyrie Irving is expected to make his Brooklyn Nets debut on Tuesday. That’s a bold statement, but the former Cleveland Cavaliers point guard has made it clear that he wants nothing less than to win and play at the highest level of basketball while in New York.

The “nets big 3” is the Brooklyn Nets team that has a lot of potential. The Nets have Kyrie Irving, D’Angelo Russell, and Jarrett Allen. They are all young players with high ceilings.

Would it be preferable for the Brooklyn Nets to not have home-court advantage in the playoffs so that star point guard Kyrie Irving could play more games?

If that is actually the aim, the injury-plagued Nets are doing a fantastic job of slipping down the rankings. The Nets have now lost four consecutive games after Saturday’s loss to the Golden State Warriors, and they are now ranked sixth in the Eastern Conference at 29-20. That’s probably not what the Nets had in mind now that Kevin Durant and Irving are in their third year together, and James Harden is in his second.

However, now (or never?) is the moment for Irving to use his clout to help the Nets break out of their funk. Irving won’t have the assistance of an injured Durant, and Harden’s recovery is uncertain, but it’s time for Irving to stamp his mark on this season.

The Nets’ ability to establish any synergy has been hampered by Kyrie Irving’s status as ‘Half Man, Half Season.’

Kyrie-Irving-Brooklyn-Nets-4-1024x722

Kyrie-Irving-Brooklyn-Nets-4-1024x722 On January 29, 2022 in San Francisco, California, Brooklyn Nets star point guard Kyrie Irving dribbles the ball up the court during the first half against the Golden State Warriors at Chase Center. | Getty Images/Kavin Mistry

NBA basketball players, for the most part, are creatures of habit and captives to their routines. On game days, many of them take the same amount of time to snooze, eat the same food, and listen to the same music. Every time they shoot before a game, they do it in the same way and with the same instructors. They also sit next to the same players on bus journeys and in locker rooms at their dressing stalls.

With that in mind, James Harden, Kevin Durant, and the Brooklyn Nets must be frustrated by the fact that elite point guard Kyrie Irving is only available for away games. Irving made it plain before the season that he would not get immunized, and he hasn’t changed his mind now that the Nets have agreed to allow him return part-time. After seeing how brilliantly the club played with the three together in a recent defeat of the Chicago Bulls, there was optimism that Irving would change his mind, but he did not. When Durant went down with a knee injury and Harden had a strange hand strain, the former All-Star point guard wouldn’t even sacrifice for the team’s benefit.

Because of Irving’s sporadic availability, TNT’s Inside the NBA pundit Charles Barkley dubbed the point guard “Half Man, Half a Season.”

Kyrie Irving’s half-game experiment with the Brooklyn Nets has mostly failed.

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The Brooklyn Nets buckled and allowed Kyrie Irving to return on a part-time basis rather than trade him around the NBA, where they might have avoided the distraction and humiliation the star point guard has generated. He won’t be able to play at home because of a New York City regulation that prohibits unvaccinated personnel from working in publicly owned properties. Irving will also miss games against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on February 16 and April 6.  

As we speculated earlier this month, dealing Irving might have netted the Nets players like Ben Simmons of Philadelphia, Jalen Brunson and Dorian Finney-Smith of Dallas, Dejounte Murray of San Antonio, and maybe Damian Lillard of Portland. There’s still time to trade Irving before the NBA Trade Deadline on February 10, but the Nets are likely stuck with their selfish point guard for the time being.   

Because Durant, Harden, and Irving have only played together a few times, it’s tough to say if the Irving experiment has succeeded or failed. The Nets are as powerful and dangerous as any team in the NBA when Durant, Harden, and Irving are on the court together. They aren’t even close to becoming contenders without one or two stars.  

But one thing is certain: in Irving’s eight games with the Nets, the team is 4-4. In the four defeats, Irving’s output is higher (27.8 PPG, 7.0 RPG, and 6.3 APG on 48.2 percent shooting and 40 percent 3-point accuracy). Because he hasn’t had to do as much heavy lifting in his four triumphs, his stats are down (21.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG, and 4.5 APG on 50.7 percent shooting and 31.6 percent 3-point accuracy). 

Kyrie Irving will be available for five games in a row, allowing him to finally establish synergy and cohesiveness with his teammates.

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On Saturday, Kyrie Irving showed off his brilliant ball-handling and playmaking abilities with 32 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and three steals. In 39 minutes on the court, he was a plus-five, but it wasn’t enough for the Nets to win Golden State.

Irving, as dynamic as he is, has shown that he isn’t enough of a difference-maker to hoist the Nets on his own. Maybe it’s Irving’s in-and-out schedule that hasn’t enabled the Nets to gel around him.

Irving now has the opportunity to develop some much-needed synergy and cohesiveness with his Nets colleagues. Brooklyn’s matchup against Golden State on Saturday was the opening of a five-game road trip. Irving will be allowed to train and play with his teammates for the remainder of the week, which will be his longest stretch ever.

It won’t be easy against Phoenix (Tuesday), Sacramento (Wednesday), Utah (Friday), and Denver (Sunday). But this is Irving’s one opportunity to have an impact on the season and do something that will divert attention away from his obnoxious status. The Nets should have enough offensive firepower to make this trip a success if Harden can return shortly.

After the NBA All-Star Game and the last four games, Irving’s status will revert to in-and-out. This week, though, with four consecutive road games, Irving should be able to spend the most time with his teammates this season. The Nets may utilize this week to change their path for the season if he can connect and receive some assistance.

However, if the Nets keep losing and Irving isn’t the difference-maker the organization expected when he was acquired, Brooklyn may find itself on the road in the playoffs. This would increase Irving’s availability, but it’s still arguable if this is a positive thing.  

ESPN.com provided all of the data.

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