Kyrie Irving’s return to full-time status was supposed to be a major boost for the Nets, but it has not gone according to plan, much like a lot of things this season for Brooklyn.
The Nets have gone just 2-3 since Irving was cleared to play in Brooklyn again and the fatigue that comes along with being an everyday player has shown that the superstar guard may be human after all. During his run playing in just road games for the Nets, Irving had put up incredible shooting numbers and was a dynamic addition anytime Brooklyn had him back in the lineup.
That hasn’t exactly translated completely to full-time Kyrie, who shot just 12-of-32 from the field while putting up 31 points. For reference through his first five games since New York City Mayor Eric Adams lifted the vaccine mandate for athletes, Irving has shot just 36.2% from the field and 37.8% from three-point range.
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His free throw percentage has stayed roughly the same, but his points per game dropped to 21.4 and he’s had 2.8 turnovers a game.
Prior to that Irving had been averaging 28.5 points per game and shooting 49.4% from the field and 43. 8% from beyond the arc in 20 games. The Nets superstar had returned to a part-time role for the Nets on Jan. 5 in Indiana after the team had originally said he could not play due to his unvaccinated status.
“I think Kyrie’s adapting to playing every night, every other night now,” Nets head coach Steve Nash said. “Maybe it’s not a classic from him, but he’s still 7-of-14 from three, 31 points, six assists so you can’t complain too much. The guy had to carry a big load with all the guards out of the lineup tonight. He’ll be fine.”
Irving has had to carry a bulk of the workload at different points since he returned earlier this year, especially on the road while Kevin Durant had been hurt. He averaged 36.5 minutes per game during his part-time run, but he would often go extended periods of time between games.
Now he finds himself playing even more minutes — averaging 39.9 minutes per game over the past five — without the same rest in between. Even Irving admitted it may be catching up with him.
“Yeah it could be,” Irving said. “I won’t rule it out, but I’m not here to make any excuses for why it’s not going well for me on the offensive end. I think what I can control is really my effort on the defensive end and being there for my teammates. And really commanding our ball club. I’m an extension of Steve out there.”
Whatever is keeping Irving from finding his rhythm on the court, it needs to be solved sooner rather than later. Brooklyn is down to just the final four games of the year and they’re destined to make the play-in round.
Their 10th place spot in the East means that the Nets would have to win two single-elimination games to even qualify for the playoffs. There they would likely see the Miami Heat in the first round, but Brooklyn needs to get there before even thinking that far ahead.
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And a big part of that means Irving figuring out his shooting woes to lessen the burden off Brooklyn’s other superstar Kevin Durant.
“What a time to go into a shooting dip as well,” Irving said. “I just wanna climb back out of that so we’re not putting so much pressure on No. 7 and it’s just better for our offense. So instead of starting off the game going 1-for-6, hopefully, these next few games I’ll be able to get going in the first quarter, in the first half, and we can just settle down a little bit.”