Nets role players stepping up without Kyrie Irving in lineup

Brooklyn Nets guard Seth Curry (30) shoots against the Los Angeles Clippers during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, in Los Angeles.
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Amid the turmoil with Kyrie Irving off the court, the Nets have found a way to salvage the ugly start that they had thanks to the outstanding play of Kevin Durant and a group around the superstar that has stepped up in a big way. 

The Nets went into Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers with the chance to reach .500 for the first time this season. Durant has done plenty of the heavy lifting, but it has been the team’s role players that have been helping to pick up some of the slack. 

On Saturday it was Seth Curry’s dominant three-point shooting that helped lift him to a 22-point night for Brooklyn. It marked the second consecutive game that Curry had put up more than 20 points for the Nets, while others like Nic Claxton, Royce O’Neale and Edmond Sumner have also been putting up consistent performances.

And before he suffered an ankle sprain last week, Yuta Watanabe had been shooting lights out from beyond the arc (12-of-22) while carving out a role off the bench that helped boost the Nets’ defense. 

“We’re going to have to be one of those teams that any given night, somebody will have to step up and make huge plays for us,” Durant told the Associated Press over the weekend. “Obviously we’re missing (Irving), so we’re going to have to look for where those points are going to come from. I think the guys are doing it as a group.”

Brooklyn Nets forward Nic Claxton (33) scores past Los Angeles Clippers guard John Wall during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, in Los Angeles.AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

While the Nets have seemingly turned things around a bit while Irving has been out, it remains hard to argue that the Nets are a better team without him than they are with him. While Irving’s off-the-court issues are well known at this point and his availability during his time in Brooklyn has been a point of focus, he remains one of, if not, the best point guard in the game. 

Irving had been averaging 26.9 points per game in 38.6 minutes per game. 

There is optimism among the Nets that once Irving does come back that it will only boost what they have been able to build while he’s been suspended. 

“I feel like once we get him back, the way we’re playing right now, it’s going to break the game wide open. He can adapt to any system, and you know, that’s 30 points we’re missing out there,” Claxton said on Friday.

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As of now, it remains unclear when Irving will be back for Brooklyn. He had been suspended for a minimum of 5 games, with that mark coming on Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers. 

He was not available for Sunday’s game against the Lakers.