Brooklyn Nets Kyrie Irving Probable to Play Against Atlanta on Sunday
All-NBA guard has been sidelined since mid-November
The Brooklyn Nets have listed guard Kyrie Irving as probable for Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks at Barclays Center.
The All-NBA guard last played in Denver on Nov. 14, and has been out with a shoulder impingement since. In his first 11 games with Brooklyn before being sidelined, Irving averaged 28.5 points, 7.2 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game.
The Nets won 12 of their first 18 games without Irving, playing without Caris LeVert during that stretch as well. But they had dropped seven straight before Friday night’s win against the Miami Heat.
That win came one day after Irving went through a full practice with the team on Thursday, his first since the injury.
“Good practice yesterday and Ky (Kyrie Irving) coming back and kind of having a good practice with us yesterday, the spirit was real good yesterday in practice,” said Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson after the win over the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 team. “I’m kind of corny, I think that stuff carries over. I thought KD (Kevin Durant) coming out and being in the huddle and talking, it’s just a collective energy with the group. And you know how that can go, it can go the other way. When you face adversity, we became even more together, tighter as a unit. So that was bodes well for the future.”
Irving’s return comes right on the heels of that of LeVert, who played for the third time since his thumb surgery on Friday night. LeVert had 20 points against the Thunder on Tuesday and hit two clutch fourth-quarter 3-pointers against the Heat on Friday.
After the injuries to both LeVert and Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie moved into the starting lineup and has averaged 24.8 points in the last 26 games, 15th in scoring in the NBA since Nov. 15. LeVert, who started the first nine games of the season alongside Irving in the backcourt, has come off the bench in his last three games.
Over Brooklyn’s first 11 games, Irving, Dinwiddie and LeVert were the Nets’ top three scorers. To get LeVert and Irving back in the lineup in the space of a week provides an immense boost for the Brooklyn offense.
The next step is integrating the pieces back together again.
"My job at the end of the day is to do the best or the team, what's going to fit best for the team concept,” said Atkinson after Thursday’s practice about lineup combinations. “And I have some ideas up here [points to head]. We've talked about it as a staff, but no decision has been made. There are still a lot of variables involved. Caris is still working his minutes to full-time, so just a lot of moving parts to it. I think it almost has to be one of those thing where, when the situation is presented to us, we have to make the decision what it is. But we are preparing for that. It's just a ton of variables."
“I think in basketball, if you know how to play, you’re going to play the right way,” said Irving on Thursday. “It’s not about one person taking this amount of shots or this person coming in and fitting in. When you’re able to play basketball at a high level, you’re able to fit in with anyone. I’ve been able to do that on the Olympics, I’ve been able to do that in Cleveland, Boston. I’ve been able to at least come out on the court and be effective one way or another with my teammates. So, we’ll figure that out when we get to that point. But as of right now, I’m going to continue to progress and keep making some key tweaks, what I can from the bench and, when I’m playing again, we’ll go from there.”
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