The Nets used the word “daze” Sunday night after playing their game against the Knicks at the Garden. That followed the shocking news flash that Kobe Bryant and his daughter had been among nine to perish earlier that day in a California helicopter crash.
Now the Nets were back at work Tuesday after that loss, practicing at HSS Training Center, taking a timeout from continuing to process their grief.
Kyrie Irving couldn’t play through his despair Sunday and left the arena before tipoff. He returned to practice, then declined to share his thoughts with reporters. But Kevin Durant, after not speaking to the assembled team media since Media Day in late September, stepped forward when asked to share his.
“It’s still hard to process this,” said Durant, who’s still rehabbing after his Achilles surgery last June and is expected to miss the entire season. “It’s a tragedy. It makes so many people in the world so sad. Having an opportunity to compete against Kobe and being around him in a human space was a joy, and those emotions just start coming out at once.
“It’s hard to comprehend all of this, but just having that time and those moments with Kobe, it was always about pressing forward. At this time, it’s so hard to do so, just the amount of impact that he had on all of us, you know?
“It’s hard to keep going right now as a basketball community. As a world as a whole, I know we’re just mourning, sticking together when it comes to this.”
Durant said he doesn’t think there’s anything that can be done that’s “big enough to truly honor” Bryant.
“But how we approach everyday life as people, me as a disciple of Kobe, who studied him and learned from him, I think it’s just to go out there and be the best that I can be every single day,” Durant said. “Not just in basketball. In everything. I feel like everybody who loved Kobe is going to take that approach in their lives.”
“This was such a huge loss, him being such a hero-like figure,” Durant added. “It affected the whole world … Kobe’s one of those guys that a lot of people said they didn’t know him. I’m like, ‘You’ve seen Kobe in every situation from rapping to winning championships to having kids to getting married to getting injured on the floor to crying on TV. You’ve seen everything from Kobe Bryant. He’s lived his life to the fullest.’
“It’s a joy that I was able to be born in ’88 so I could catch Kobe in his prime.”
Irving was dealing with the loss of his mentor and close friend, gone at just 41. Coach Kenny Atkinson spent time with the point guard before he left the Garden.
“When you see someone that you’re close to hurting like that, that’s very difficult,” Atkinson said.
Still, there’s a chance Irving will play Wednesday night when the Nets face Detroit at Barclays Center.
“Who knows how he feels [Wednesday]?” Atkinson said. “But I think the fact that he was here today and engaged and had a great practice, I think it bodes well for playing [Wednesday].”
DeAndre Jordan is set to play after missing five games because of a a dislocated finger. Like so many others, he was a Kobe fan.
“He’s everybody’s favorite player,” Jordan said.”… He was a great competitor, and I feel like everybody has taken something from him and tried to instill it in their personality, their game, somehow.
“It still, to me, doesn’t feel real. We obviously don’t want it to be that way.”