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Kyrie returns, KD speaks and Spencer changes number

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It was to say the least an eventful afternoon at the Nets practice facility in Sunset Park.

Kyrie Irving, who was too distraught to play Sunday after Kobe Bryant’s sudden and tragic death, returned to practice ... but declined to speak with the media. Kevin Durant who had not spoken about his friend and rival’s death, spoke eloquently about what’s happened since Sunday’s helicopter crash and Spencer Dinwiddie, in a dramatic move, announced that he is changing his number, from 8 to 26 to honor both Bryant who last wore No. 24 and his daughter Gigi who wore No. 2.

Irving, who left the Garden after hearing the news Sunday and did not return for the game, practiced with an intensity. The Nets made no commitment that Irving with play Wednesday vs. the Pistons, but it appears likely.

Atkinson told a throng of media that he didn’t even look at game tape after Sunday’s game, that it didn’t reflect his team’s best effort. Instead, he just moved on to planning for the Pistons. With all the emotion associated with Sunday’s events, he didn’t feel like he could evaluate his team fairly.

The Nets coach, who was with Irving when the news broke, said the NBA may have a better “global” view but he would’ve preferred not to play Sunday. The game started five hours after the accident took place.

Durant who hadn’t spoken or tweeted about Bryant’s death said he had tried but there was nothing he could think of that was as “big” as Kobe.

The most dramatic moment of the day, though, was Angeleno Spencer Dinwiddie announcing he will no longer wear No. 8, one of Bryant’s two retired numbers. Although his choice of No. 8 was tied to his family, not Bryant, Dinwiddie explained his thinking to Pooch.

Marc Stein noted that Dinwiddie had to get the league’s permission to make the change, that normally the NBA does not allow players to adopt new numbers in mid-season. Each request, said Stein, will be handled on a case-by-case basis. Indeed, Shams Charania tweeted that other players who wear Bryant’s numbers may soon follow Dinwiddie’s example.

As KD said,

“Kobe Bryant was just a joy to be around. You would display every emotion when you (were) around him. As a competitor, you hated playing against him. As someone that admired him, you just loved being in his presence... he meant the world to us.”

And to the Nets players and coaches alike.


Atkinson also announced that DeAndre Jordan, who’s missed five games with a dislocated middle finger on his shooting hand, will return Wednesday.