Kyrie Irving has returned to the Brooklyn Nets and looks set to play against the Cleveland Cavaliers after missing seven straight games. How will Kyrie Irving impact the game upon his return?
Since he has been absent the Nets have changed significantly. James Harden joined the Nets in a big trade that saw them lose a lot of their roster: Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince, and Rodions Kurucs.
James Harden and Kevin Durant’s Performances Without Kyrie Irving
Harden got off to a great start. In his debut against the magic he dropped 32 points, 12 rebounds and 14 assists. He showed how well he can play with Kevin Durant without any problems as Durant dropped 42 points that game shooting 61.5% from the field.
After this game, Harden took to Instagram and posted on his story: “great team win! We didn’t even have 11 [Kyrie Irving] tonight,” and “scary hours.” It looks like the new Nets star is liking his new team and can’t wait to play with Irving.
The Nets next game saw Harden drop 34 points and 12 assists whilst Durant dropped 30 points in a win in a tough game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Kyrie Irving on His Absence
Irving spoke to the media ahead of Wednesday night’s game. He said, “Very excited, you know just to have James here.”
“Obviously letting go some of the pieces that have been here in the Nets organization for a while even before I got here you know was gonna be hard regardless,” continued Irving.
“It’s just the nature of the business, we’re all brothers still.”
Irving wouldn’t shed light on the personal reasons that has led to his absence. He said, “A lot of family and personal stuff going on so just wanna leave it at that.”
A lot of speculation circulated about whether his team could trust Irving after he left without notifying head coach Steve Nash. However, it seems that the team is aware of his situation as he said, “they had my back and that’s all I can ask for.”
It does not seem likely that Irving will share his personal situation with the rest of the world, although he did say he was okay.
He told the media that he is, “Happy to be back, happy to be around these guys, addressed the team, addressed everybody that needs to be addressed, now it’s time to move on.”
How Will Irving, Harden and Durant Play Together?
Now that it is clear that Irving and the rest of the Nets are united, the only question that remains is can Irving, Harden and Durant play well together. Durant is one of the most efficient players in the league and we already know he is effective playing without the ball from his time at the Golden State Warriors.
Most of the concern comes from the fact that Irving and Harden are both very ball-dominant players.
Harden ranked second for all-time highest usage rate at 40.47 for the 2018-19 season. He even had a 36.26% usage rate while playing with Russell Westbrook who has the highest usage rate of all time with 41.65% for his 2016-17 season.
Irving is most effective with the ball in his hands, creating his own shot. Whether that is getting to the rim, finishing or kicking it out, or creating space for a jump shot.
Just because they both work best with the ball in their hands doesn’t mean it won’t work. Now that they have two elite ball-handlers it makes the Nets even more dangerous in transition. More importantly, it makes the Nets’ rotations significantly more dangerous.
With three stars, it is likely that through most games there will be a star playing with other units. Perhaps not as much in regular season, but in the playoffs I suspect we will rarely see all of their big three on the bench resting at the same time.
Due to Mike D’Antoni being an assistant coach at the Nets, I suspect Harden could play a lot of minutes in rotations that don’t include Durant and Irving. Primarily because while D’Antoni was head coach of the Houston Rockets, they ran a lot of isolation through Harden.
We could see a lot of Harden running iso-ball when Durant and Irving aren’t on the court, which is very problematic for other teams. This is because it will likely make it difficult for teams to capitalize of the Nets having, what is seen as, a weaker bench after the Harden trade.
The question of who would take the last shot and close the game, the answer should be clear, Kevin Durant.
The game against the Cavs on Wednesday night will be interesting to see how Nash utilizes the three stars. The Nets look certain to make it out the East and go to the NBA finals. The Nets seem to be favourites along with the Los Angeles Lakers.
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