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Kyrie Irving’s return looms large: ‘I know there’s a lot of emotions going through his head’

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The highly anticipated return of Kyrie Irving is close. Take a look at what was posted on the Barclays Center jumbotron after Monday night’s game. Not very subtle. Kyrie is coming.

Since the Nets relented their initial decision to keep Irving at home and brought the Nets guard back on a part-time basis, excitement has been building. Now, finally, Irving is nearing the end of his ramp-up. He’s expected to play against the Pacers on Wednesday, —aka tomorrow — in Indiana, the first of 22 games he’ll be eligible to play.

Steve Nash tried to tamp down expectations prior to Monday’s 118-104 loss to the Grizzlies that the team hasn’t made a firm decision whether he will return against the Pacers. The Nets head coach said the deciding factors leading up to Wednesday’s game will be how the seven-time All-Star feels and whether the team deems it safe for him to play. Still, it seems close to a done deal. And if not Wednesday, Irving’s wait will be extended for another five days until the Nets fly to Portland for the postponed game vs. the Blazers.

Irving’s looming return comes at a time where Brooklyn is in the midst of their biggest funk of the season, losing three-straight games and falling to the second seed in the Eastern Conference standings. Although Irving’s on-court talents can nurse the team’s woes in opposing arenas, Nash and his players know that there’s more to correct if the team is to get back on a winning trajectory.

“Yeah, definitely. We’d love to have Kyrie back. He’s a special, special talent but there are things that we need to correct internally and individually that can help us,” said James Harden. “And then adding Kyrie back is going to be more special. We got to control and we got to do the things that necessary to win games possession by possession individually.”

2021 NBA Playoffs - Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

There’s no question the addition of the seven-time All-Star guard will be a big help for a team that already holds a league-best 13-3 road record. Most importantly, it provides a must-needed spark to the funk-filled Nets.

“It definitely gives us a spark. Something that we’re going to need in a three-game skid right now,” added Harden. “It definitely gives us a spark and a blessing that we can have him back. We got to do things in that film session to continue to get better with our principles and our detail. Adding Kyrie is more special.”

When Kevin Durant was asked about Irving’s likely return against the Pacers Wednesday night, he already envisions the impact the guard will have on the hardwood in Brooklyn’s backcourt.

“It’s always good. More than anything, he’s an efficient player that can put pressure on the defense. He’s a good defender as well so we’re just looking forward to what he brings as a player and as far as energy, you got to bring your own energy as an individual, bring it to the collective and see what happens,” said Durant. “We just keep building.”

The Nets superstar knows that Irving, who expressed gratitude for the Nets decision to bring him back. has a lot of emotions ahead of his season debut. Durant can’t wait for his fellow “Big Three” teammate to return but he also stressed the importance of supporting Irving through this process of re-integration.

“He loves to play. He loves being out there with his teammates so I can’t wait to see him out there,” said Durant . “This is our livelihoods. This is something we dream about every day. To go through this situation and get an opportunity to play right now, I know there’s a lot of emotions going through his head, and as teammates, we got to be there to support him from the beginning of it. He’s starting to get his rhythm and figure out how he wants to play and just go from there.”

After some schedule adjustments, Irving will now be able to play 12 of the Nets next 18 games. Then, the questions will begin: Is he ready to go full-bore right away? How will the re-integration go? What adjustments will Nash need to make to his rotations? Whose minutes get cut? And how soon after Irving’s re-integration will Joe Harris begin his re-integration? Not to mention the possibility of trades! Once again, the Nets and Nash are looking at a “new” team. Continuity will be tested but for Nash and his superstars, it’ll be the classic good-problem-to-have.