Nets Gameday: Kyrie Irving returns; the ‘Big 3’ is back together

Brooklyn Nets power forward Kevin Durant (7) and point guard Kyrie Irving (11) and shooting guard James Harden.
Feb 2, 2021; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets power forward Kevin Durant (7) and point guard Kyrie Irving (11) and shooting guard James Harden (13) and Los Angeles Clippers small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) await a replay review during the fourth quarter at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the game everyone has been waiting for. Kyrie Irving will take the floor for the first time for the Nets after months of uncertainty of how the situation between Irving and the organization would play out.

Plenty of questions still loom heading into Wednesday’s game between the Nets and Indiana Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. One big one will be whether Irving starts or comes off the bench.

Nets coach Steve Nash wouldn’t say after the team’s shootaround how the seven-time NBA All-Star would be utilized, but he was confident that Irving would get plenty of playing time.

“I don’t think it’s where he can play 38 [minutes],” Nash said,(h/t ESPN). “But I think he can play a big chunk of the game. He’s played a lot — he’s had three or four full-court days with the 5-on-5, so I think he’s capable of playing extended minutes, but not necessarily his customary high 30s.”

All eyes will be on Irving whenever he does take the floor on Wednesday. It will mark the first time he’s worn a Nets jersey since he hurt his ankle in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals last season and the first time since Game 1 of that series that Irving, Kevin Durant, and James Harden will all be on the court together.

Irving’s return comes as the Nets have dropped a season-high three straight games and have struggled to shut down opposing teams’ best players. Harden and Durant have also struggled with a majority of the scoring falling on their shoulders.

With Irving back in the lineup that should take some of the pressure off the two other members of Brooklyn’s “Big 3.”

“It’s easy to say he could help rest Kevin and James. Kevin and James don’t want to rest,” Nash said. “We’ll see, we’ll pick our spots, but see if it helps and presents [itself], but obviously his minutes give us talent. His minutes give us versatility and his minutes give us a respite for other players in the lineup, so we’ll look at the positives, and for whatever adaptation issues we have, we’ll work through those.”

LaMarcus Aldridge will play as well for Brooklyn. He originally had been listed as questionable but was cleared to play on Wednesday.

Aldridge also told reporters in Indiana that he was still dealing with some COVID-19 symptoms.

The Nets arrive in Indiana in a little bit more rested shape than the Pacers, who traveled in from New York. The Pacers dropped their fifth consecutive game on Tuesday against the New York Knicks.

The Pacers are in the midst of a rough season, going 2-8 in their last 10 games and sitting 12.5 games back of the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Indiana has also been hit hard by COVID, with eight players currently in protocols.

Nets Notables

Brooklyn enters Wednesday’s game with a league-best 13-3 record on the road and the Nets are a franchise record 10 games over .500 on the road. … The Nets’ four-game road winning streak against the Pacers is the longest in franchise history and they currently are on a five-game winning streak overall against Indiana. … Kevin Durant is averaging 29.7 points per game this season for the Nets, along with 7.7 rebounds per game and 5.7 assists per game. Durant’s average 29.7 points per game are the third-highest in a season in his career.

Nets Injury Report

  • Joe Harris (left ankle surgery) — Out

Pacers Injury Report

  • Caris Levert (health and safety protocols) — Out
  • Malcolm Brogdon (health and safety protocols) — Out
  • Goga Bitadze (health and safety protocols) — Out
  • Isaiah Jackson (health and safety protocols) — Out
  • Chris Duarte (health and safety protocols) — Out
  • Jeremy Lamb (health and safety protocols) — Out
  • Kelan Martin (health and safety protocols) — Out
  •  TJ Warren (health and safety protocols) — Out
  • TJ McConnell (right wrist surgery) — Out

How to Watch

Monday’s game will air on YES Network with Ian Eagle, Sarah Kustok, and Michael Grady on the broadcast. Chris Carrino and Tim Capstraw will have the call on the radio on 101.9 FM WFAN.

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