Nets head coach Steve Nash told assembled media that Kyrie Irving is expected to play heavy minutes in his season debut against the Pacers on Wednesday.
While it remains to be seen if Irving will play his typical workload of minutes, 34.9 minutes per game last season, Nash doesn’t think Irving’s conditioning is at a point where he can play 38 minutes.
“But I think he can play a big chunk of the game. He’s played a lot–he’s had three of four full court days with the five-on-five, so I think he’s capable of playing extended minutes, but not necessarily his customary high 30’s.”
Irving hasn’t played yet for the Nets this season due to being unvaccinated, and vaccine mandates in New York preventing unvaccinated New York residents from entering certain indoor facilities, including Barclays Center, where the Nets play their home games. Brooklyn front-office officials decided that they prefer that he get vaccinated and be eligible to play as a full-time player.
In the wake of the Nets’ COVID-19 outbreak and the recent rise of the Omricon variant forcing over a hundred players into the health and safety protocols, the Nets reversed course on their preference Irving get vaccinated and announced that they would bring Irving back as a part-time player.
Nash admits that there will be an adjustment period for Irving who will have to get used to some new wrinkles in the Nets offense but he is confident Irving will find his rhythm and role within the Nets quickly.
“It might take a little bit but Kyrie knows what he’s doing,” Nash said. “He’s been with us and he also can adapt to situations and so we haven’t had a ton of time to really give him the tutorials, but that’s something that we are happy to do on the fly as well. But more importantly, try to feel a sense of cohesion with his teammates, get comfortable playing the game, before we overload him with a ton of thoughts. I think he’ll be fine.”
Irving scored 26.9 points, grabbed 4.8 rebounds, and dished 6.0 assists per game on 50.6 percent shooting from the field, 40.2 percent shooting from the three-point line, and 92.2 shooting from the free-throw line during the abbreviated 2020-2021 season.
With Irving active and Kevin Durant and James Harden clearing protocols recently, the Nets are healthy for the most part and should bode well for their chances to contend for a spot in the 2022 NBA Finals. Brooklyn (23-12) is second in the Eastern Conference, trailing the Bulls (25-10) for the number one by just two games.