Kyrie Irving is on the mend, but he won’t be ready to play in the Nets’ game against the Miami Heat on Sunday.
Irving, who has missed eight straight games with a shoulder impingement, was on the bench for the Nets’ 112-107 win over the Boston Celtics on Friday. Before the game, he was re-evaluated by the team and coach Kenny Atkinson seemed encouraged.
“Kyrie started on court work,” Atkinson said. “We will see how it progresses, but the fact that he started is good news for us.”
Irving was averaging a team-high 28.5 points in 11 games before he was injured. The Nets went 4-7. With Irving out and Spencer Dinwiddie taking over ballhandling duties, they are 6-2.
There has been much on Twitter about how the Nets are playing better without Irving. Before beating the Celtics on Friday, however, they hadn’t beaten a team with a better-than-.500 record.
Atkinson believes the confidence Dinwiddie is gaining while running the offense will only make the Nets better when Irving returns. When asked if he had talked to Irving about what their roles would be, Dinwiddie said that would be up to his teammate.
“As great of a talent as he is, we need to figure out how to work around what he prefers to do,” Dinwiddie said.
Notes & quotes: After being jeered in absentia by Boston fans on Wednesday, Irving responded with an Instagram post criticizing the crowd for “defacing people who are truly PEOPLE.” He went on to talk about the importance of mental health over playing professional sports to please fans. Said Celtics coach Brad Stevens, “The level of scrutiny that the best players in the league get, we forget how great they are. Sometimes I think it’s good to take a step back and appreciate them for their greatness, whether it’s Kyrie or anybody else.”