Nash, Nets face lineup decisions with Kyrie Irving’s return coming soon

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Los Angeles Lakers
Dec 25, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Patty Mills (8) moves the ball as forward Nic Claxton (33) provides coverage against Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook (0) and forward Carmelo Anthony (7) during the first half at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The return of Kyrie Irving will be a welcomed sign for the Nets while on the road.

It will be the first time its “Big Three” will all be on the court at the same time this season, but it also means that head coach Steve Nash will have some decision-making to do when it comes to his lineup and rotation. And what does that mean for those Nets that have stepped up while the team was ravaged by COVID and while they played the first two months without Irving?

Guard Patty Mills is one of the more intriguing players that will be impacted by the return of Irving. Mills has stepped up as the Nets’ third scoring option with Irving out and his shooting from beyond the arc has been a game-changer for Brooklyn.

That became even more abundantly clear on Saturday after he fouled out and the tone of the game changed without him on the floor.

Mills’ playing time will likely go down on the nights Irving is eligible to play. Since Irving remains unvaccinated, he can only play for Brooklyn on the road — except for at Madison Square Garden and in Toronto. That leaves 22 games where the Nets superstar can play.

Mills has been having a career year averaging a career-best 14.2 points entering Monday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies. The 33-year-old guard has been shooting 44.9% from the field and a career-high 43.6% from three-point range in over 30 minutes per game.

“Oh yeah (he brings) a lot. You know, it’s exciting to know that we obviously have the caliber that’s been tucked in our back pocket,” Mills said about Irving’s return on Monday, according to the New York Post. “But in saying that, it’s how are we able to put the pieces together on court to make this thing go the way that we want to. So on paper it’s all said and good, but we’ve got to be able to understand and know how to use that.

“But it’s very exciting, something that I’m excited to be able to play with him.”

Head coach Steve Nash has said previously to reporters that he could see Mills starting in Brooklyn and then coming off the bench when the Nets are on the road. That is sure to change the rest of the Nets rotation as well.

Nic Claxton, Blake Griffin and DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench on Saturday night and James Johnson was Brooklyn’s sixth man.

The lineup Monday could be a window into what Nash could be thinking for the foreseeable future now that Irving is back in the fold as the Nets look to make a championship run.