Kyrie Irving’s shooting slump isn’t something new for the Nets superstar, but the timing of it is what has made it so pronounced this season.
The point guard has seen his shooting numbers dip since he’s returned to full-time status and it couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Nets. Brooklyn is in a fight to the final game of the season as they try to improve their positioning for the play-in round.
Irving, who is used to playing a full season, told reporters that slumps usually occur during the middle of the year, but since he has only played in 25 games this season it has come at an inopportune time.
“Quite a time to be going through a mini shooting slump,” Irving said after shootaround on Tuesday. “But the confidence is there. Just have to continue to work in the gym and just stay focused on what I can control. … Usually I be going through this or some of these times maybe game 50 or game 60. It’s a little bit more polarizing now that it’s going on towards the end of the season, but it’s no time to even focus on that.
“Just got to quiet the mind and just play free. There’s nothing else that I need to really worry about.”
Irving has continued to take a lot of shots from the field, attempting 32 in the Nets’ loss to the Atlanta Hawks over the weekend. However, he has only driven the basket 11 times over the last five games, which also marks the timeframe he has been a full-time player.
The direction and pace of the game have ultimately determined how and what shots Irving has been taking, he told reporters.
“Sometimes I’ll drive, sometimes I won’t,” he said. “Sometimes I’m feeling it from the perimeter and when my jump shots going and I feel like no one can stop me, then I’ma just keep shooting. But if teams are allowing me to get to the rim and I’m getting to the free-throw line, and I’m being aggressive with that, then that works for me. I think I just play the game with flow and instincts.”
The Nets will need all that they can get out of Irving down the stretch as they play meaningful games well beyond when anyone thought they would be in the regular season. Brooklyn had been a favorite to contend for an NBA title, which meant that it was presumed their positioning in the postseason would have already been determined.
Instead, for a lot of players, they’re in unfamiliar territory.
“We just gotta play. We’re in a tough spot,” Andre Drummond said. “Interesting situation. I don’t think any of us ever thought we’d be in this position, but we’re here. gotta take each and every game and try to win.”
After Tuesday, the Nets will have to face the New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers. Brooklyn could move out of the 10th seed and into the eighth seed, which would mean they would only need to win once to get into the first round of the playoffs.
Still, the Nets need wins over the next week to make that happen. They say that they’re ready to take whatever comes at them now and in the postseason head-on.
“A little adversity doesn’t hurt anybody. I think we’ll be fine,” Drummond said. “I think we just have to take this play-in game however it comes and move forward from there.”
And are Nets were looking forward to the pressure that’s come along with everything?
“Yeah, why not,” Drummond responded. “I don’t think we have a choice so why not take it head-on.”