PHILADELPHIA — Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks announced before Thursday’s game that guard Kyrie Irving would undergo an arthroscopic procedure on his right shoulder and be out for the remainder of the season.
Irving missed 26 games due to the shoulder impingement between before returning on Jan. 12 following a cortisone shot. He played nine games after that before spraining his right knee in Washington on Feb. 1. That turned out to be the final game of the season for the All-NBA guard.
“I think with all those things we look at all our options,” said Marks. “And I think ultimately the player decides, he looks at all the options on the table and this goes back to Kyrie wanting to go out there and giving it his all. Surgery is your last resort. You never want to say, let’s have surgery right now. So he exhausted that. I give him a lot of credit for trying the cortisone shot first and trying to go out there and try to play and contribute as much as he could.”
Irving was initially sidelined following a Nov. 14 game in Denver after averaging 28.5 points per game over his first 11 games as a Net. In meeting with the media at Barclays Center on Jan. 4, he disclosed that he had considered surgery but opted for a cortisone shot to see how the shoulder responded. A week later he was back, scoring 21 points on 10-of-11 shooting in a win over the Atlanta Hawks at Barclays Center on Jan. 12. Two nights later, he scored 32 points against Utah.
Irving went on to put up a 45-point game in an overtime win at Detroit, and an epic 54-point game — three points shy of his career high — in a win over Chicago at Barclays Center on Jan. 31. But the next night in Washington, he suffered a right knee sprain midway through the fourth quarter and missed Brooklyn’s final five games before the break.
Following the Nets’ first practice back from the All-Star break on Tuesday, head coach Kenny Atkinson announced that Irving had not practiced and would be out of Thursday night’s game due to continued difficulty with his right shoulder.
“I think Kyrie even mentioned a couple times that he was playing through pain, he’s been playing and we got to give him a lot of credit for that, pushing through,” said Marks. “And he wants to be out there with his guys. It gets to the point where you say enough is enough. Again, it goes to long term health. The best prognosis for him is to shut him down, and get this taken care of once and for all.”
In Irving’s first season as a Net, he finishes averaging 27.4 points and 6.4 assists, shooting 47.8 percent overall and 39.4 percent from 3-point range. “I’ve said this before that he was better than I even thought, a better player than I thought, and I had tremendous respect for him in Cleveland and Boston,” said Atkinson. “Faster than I thought, more skilled than I thought, a higher level competitor than I thought, much more physical than I thought. I don’t think people give him enough credit for how physical he is on both ends, how active he is defensively and what an attacker he is. That bodes really well for the future. I really love the player, and I feel like we have a really good relationship. So, we’re in a good place there. Obviously, you want more reps, more time with him, but we’ll have time with him in the offseason, too, to connect and, when he gets healthy, to work with him a little bit.”
While the Nets knew Kevin Durant would be out for the entire season when they acquired him over the summer, they ended up with just 20 games to see Irving in concert with the existing core, particularly guards like Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert and Joe Harris.
“I think that’s the big thing,” said Atkinson. “You wanted some time to work things out, work on our continuity and obviously work on the chemistry of the team and how we’re going to use him. That’s the disappointing part. We’re not going to have that opportunity. We’ll have to start fresh next season and figure it out quickly. But that is the disappointing part.”
“We always evaluate everything and for sure when you don’t have a massive sample size, that’s gonna make things a little bit difficult,” said Marks. “Again, that’s what we’re here to do. That’s what analytics does, that’s what scouts do, that’s what our front office group does and so far. Again, utmost confidence we’re right on schedule and on target to go and put a contender out there. That’s been the goal all along.”