Kyrie Irving appeared to laugh and grimace at the same time when he was asked how often he thought about the fact that Kevin Durant, James Harden and himself have been on the court so little this season.
Clearly, a bit of a sore spot for Irving, who knows that the Nets “Big 3” has been together on the court much less than any of them had imagined. In fact, they have only played 32 minutes together this season together.
In total since the team brought Harden, Irving and Durant together in January of 2021, they’ve played just 16 games together.
“We think about it daily,” Irving said after the loss to Phoenix. “It’s not something that’s short-sighted for us. We think about the long-term and how well we gel together as a trio. And when we say a trio we’re not excluding anybody else on the team, but we just know the energy runs through us. We’re flowing out there and we’re playing. I think James said it last year, there’s not a lot of teams that can be out on the floor with us that can match up very well with us.
“That’s just the confidence we have in one another when all three of us are healthy and we’re playing at a high level. … That’s definitely on our wishlist man, and we just have to stay patient. Just not lose that confidence that all the pieces will come together at the right time.”
So far the stars have not aligned just yet for the Nets or their “Big 3.” Durant has been sidelined by an MCL sprain that will keep him out until at least after the all-star break and Irving is limited to playing games on the road because of his unvaccinated status.
James Harden has even dealt with intermittent injuries, including a hand strain that has been bothering him for a few weeks. It kept him out of two of the Nets’ last three games.
“I don’t think about it cause it’s happening. You know what I mean,” Harden said when asked about the trio’s limited time together. “I don’t think about it. Every game I just think about ways to get better. Ways to help my teammates and ways to try and win the game. That’s all that I can control.”
In lieu of the Nets’ “Big 3,” Brooklyn has relied on contributions from a growing number of players who have had to take on larger roles in the past month and a half. Until he had been injured at Golden State, LaMarcus Aldridge had helped fill some of the offensive gap and rookie Kessler Edwards has developed into a 3-and-D wing for the Nets.
And ultimately that’s part of what the Nets are trying to do through all of the lineup fluctuations. They’re learning on the fly about what works and what doesn’t, so when their Big 3 are back, part-time or otherwise, they’ll be ready to go.
“This is a project that we’re going to grow throughout the entire season,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “It’s not, we’re fully formed in December or January or February. Even more so when we have so many injuries or COVID interruptions. We just haven’t had the continuity or the corporate knowledge. That’s a part of it. We’re fine with that. We’re fine that we might take our lumps here at the moment and just keep getting better. The challenge is for our spirit to remain high and for us to keep our heads down, and keep pushing.
“Cause when we do get health, if we continue to improve these stretches, we’ll be moved further along the road when we get those guys back. We’ll be able to be even more formidable and competitive.”