Beyond Kyrie the controversy —- the Kyrie “thing,” there is Kyrie the hooper.
That became quite evident the last two games when Irving, able to play two straight on the road, racked up 72 points in impressive wins over the Hornets and, of course, the 76ers. More than that, the Nets superstar showed he can be a defensive asset.
As Mark W. Sanchez wrote Saturday...
Irving was a different kind of spectacular in Thursday’s 129-100 destruction of the 76ers, in which he scored 22 points but was more impressive on the other side of the court. For much of the game, he shadowed James Harden, and the practice time the two have shared showed. Seemingly every move Harden made Irving was ready for, limiting The Beard to easily his worst game since the trade that sent him from Brooklyn to Philadelphia.
Tantalizing is indeed the word.
“Just taking the assignment and doing what I could to make it tough on him. Obviously James is not always going to shoot like that,” Irving said of Harden, who finished with 11 points, none in the second half. “But I just wanted to make it tough, be in his airspace.”
“That’s fun as a competitor … I relish those moments and I’m grateful I get a chance to go against other great players and really go at them and they go at me.”
It’s not just the offensive numbers or even the defensive prowess and pride that has stood out with Irving on the floor. It’s the connection, the chemistry — whatever you want to call it — that exists between Irving and Kevin Durant. Good friends off the court, they have an almost preternatural knowledge of each other’s game on the court. They make each other and everyone else around them better.
But questions abound about Kyrie the “thing,” the controversy whose world cloud is centered on the words, “vaccine” and “mandate.”
Of the remaining 15 games, Irving will only be eligible for four of them and with Ben Simmons ramp-up schedule uncertain, the new “Big Three” will have a maximum of three games together. Is that enough to pull things together in preparation for the post-season? And what about the possibility of a Nets-Raptors play-in?
Although Adrian Wojnarowski suggested two days ago that the Nets have “confidence more than optimism” that the city will relent at some point, Sanchez quotes a source as saying, “Status quo remains,” meaning nothing at least for now.
The most ideal time for either side to relent would be next Wednesday when the Nets face the Blazers at the start of a three-game homestand where fans are hopeful of seeing Simmons on the court for the first time. Otherwise, Irving will be barely available for any stretch run the Nets might make at the end of the season. He’s eligible to play in only one of the last eight games.
How likely is any of that? Who knows? But for the Nets, their chance for post-season success is dependent on forces out of their control.
- Kyrie Irving’s performances continue to be a tease for Nets - Mark W. Sanchez - New York Post
- How an engaged Kyrie Irving on defense can unlock everything the Nets could be - Brian Lewis - New York Post Sports+
- Nets riding high, but reality check coming with Kyrie Irving likely out for 11 of next 15 games - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News