The return of Kyrie Irving is inching ever so nearer, providing the promise that the Brooklyn Nets’ “Big 3” of the star point guard, Kevin Durant, and James Harden will finally get on the floor together.
“Scary hours” indeed, as Harden so confidently forbade Saturday.
Irving, who missed the last seven games due to a mixture of personal reasons and NBA COVID protocols, is expected to travel with the Nets to Cleveland for their two-game tilt Wednesday and Friday night against the Cavaliers. It remains to be seen if he’ll suit up or not, but he is at least with the club after going M.I.A. for a couple of weeks.
“I think we just want him to ramp up accordingly to protect him from unnecessary injuries,” Nets head coach Steve Nash said Monday. “He’ll get some work [Tuesday] and then we’ll go to Cleveland, and hopefully he’ll be available on Wednesday night.”
“I’m back, I’m happy to be back, we have some great pieces,” Irving said Tuesday, taking full accountability for his absence. “We just move on.”
Irving last played on Jan. 5 in a blowout win against the Utah Jazz before practically vanishing. Speculation swirled as to why he was missing games, beginning with reports that he was upset of what transpired at the United States Capitol Building on Jan. 6.
“Everything going on politically, socially it’s hard to ignore,” he said. “I want to make changes daily.”
That includes buying a home for the family of George Floyd, who was killed by Minneapolis police in May.
Other reports disclosed that Irving was furious with the Nets for not asking for more of his input when the team was looking for a new head coach. Apparently, Nash was not his top choice.
Last week, Irving was subsequently caught on social media at a large family birthday party at a bar in West Orange, NJ not wearing a mask — two direct violations of the NBA’s COVID protocols.
He was fined $50,000 and forfeited two games-worth of pay, which altogether cost him over $900,000.
“I had a lot of family and personal stuff going on, just want to leave it at that,” Irving said.
During his absence, the Nets pulled off the blockbuster of the season, acquiring Harden from the Houston Rockets in a four-team trade that saw them part with a bevy of draft picks, swaps, and younger talent.
But in Harden’s two games since joining Brooklyn, he and Durant have already put the Eastern Conference and NBA on notice.
He posted a 32-point triple-double in his debut on Saturday against the Orlando Magic while Durant dropped 42 points. The latter then hit the game-winning three-pointer with 36.3 seconds remaining to lift the Nets to a massive 125-123 victory over the East’s top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks. Durant dropped 30 while Harden stayed red-hot with 34.
Brooklyn will only grow more menacing when Irving returns. He averaged 27.1 points and 6.1 assists over the first seven games of the season.
“I’m so excited for Ky [Irving] to get back,” Harden said over the weekend. “He’s a key piece to what we’re trying to do. As soon as we can get on the court together, it’s going to be scary hours.”