Not solely did Irving present flashes of his previous type, posting 22 factors, 4 assists, three rebounds and three steals in 32 minutes, he supplied a reminder of simply how harmful the Nets will be when he shares the ground with Kevin Durant and James Harden. With Irving hitting a number of essential baskets down the stretch, the Nets erased what was a 19-point Pacers lead on their method to the win.
After it was over, Irving admitted having some nerves in his return however stated he was simply joyful to be on the ground after lacking the primary three months of the yr.
“Simply a number of gratitude simply to be current tonight with everybody,” Irving stated. “Simply go on the market and have enjoyable doing what we like to do. It was a not-so-good first half for us, and we got here within the locker room and we knew that with a view to construct this identification that we wish to have later within the season we received to start out now.”
Irving, who is not vaccinated towards COVID-19, making him ineligible to play in dwelling video games due to New York Metropolis’s vaccine mandate, wasn’t on the ground to start out the season as a result of the Nets determined earlier than the season that they did not wish to have a part-time participant. Nonetheless, after a COVID-19 outbreak decimated the Nets’ roster, the choice was made to permit Irving to rejoin the group as a participant who might take part solely in highway video games.
After Wednesday’s sport, Irving was requested if his stance on getting the vaccine might change sooner or later.
“Man, I am simply taking it in the future at a time,” he stated. “Like I stated earlier within the season, it isn’t a perfect state of affairs and I am at all times praying that issues get found out and we’re capable of come to some collective settlement, whether or not it’s with the league or it is simply issues that is occurring that would assist sort of ease what we’re all coping with COVID-19 and the vaccine.
“I believe everyone’s feeling it, so I do not wish to make it merely about me and somebody lessening the principles for me. I do know what the implications had been, I nonetheless know what they’re, however proper now I am simply going to take it in the future at a time like I stated and simply get pleasure from this time I get to play with my guys. And nevertheless it appears to be like later within the season, then we’ll deal with it then.”
Earlier than getting up from the rostrum, Irvin smiled when requested if that meant getting vaccinated was nonetheless a chance.
“Oh come on, man,” Irving stated. “Do not hold onto me.”
With Irving again on the court docket Wednesday evening, the Nets’ offense regarded dynamic at instances once more with so many All-Stars on the ground.
Durant, who scored a game-high 39 factors, stated it was “unimaginable” to have Irving again.
“It was superb to have him on the market,” Durant stated. “I simply missed his presence across the locker room, his power, his vibe across the group. After which his sport is simply so stunning. It makes the sport a lot simpler for everyone on the market. It was superb to see him out on the ground once more.
“The gang confirmed him a lot love, teammates, simply the sport of basketball is joyful to have him again. He made the sport a lot tougher for the Pacers, giving us a unique assault, particularly within the fourth quarter. We’ll simply preserve constructing on this.”
Irving confirmed slightly early rust within the first quarter, going 0-for-3 from the sphere with two turnovers, however he settled in and began to discover a rhythm.
Harden stated he is aware of it may take slightly extra time for the Nets to come back along with Irving again within the fold, however the sense of perception Irving introduced again to the ground was palpable.
“It is particular,” Harden stated. “It felt like he is been enjoying all season. He regarded snug as typical, his tempo, his rhythm. It regarded like Kyrie.”
A number of gamers and coaches echoed that sentiment after watching Irving return to work. Irving’s subsequent sport shall be subsequent Monday in Portland, in a sport that was initially scheduled to be performed on Dec. 23 however needed to be postponed as a result of the Nets had been coping with the COVID-19 outbreak.
Nets coach Steve Nash stated he’s hopeful he can preserve ramping up Irving’s minutes because the Nets look to keep up the momentum they discovered within the fourth quarter, when Irving had 10 factors and helped the Nets outscore the Pacers 35-20.
“He appears to be like like himself,” Nets coach Steve Nash stated. “Not a giant shock watching him play in follow — he is so gifted and gifted and you would see the rhythm was there, but it surely’s nonetheless an adaptation so we received to offer him some house right here as he transitions again to enjoying, however tonight he was large.”