Kyrie Irving has played seven games this season since being allowed by the Nets to return as a part-time player because he is not eligible for games in New York so long as he fails to comply with the city’s vaccine mandate.
But he just completed his first sustained stretch of play on the Nets’ four-game road trip that ended with a blowout loss Sunday night at Minnesota, and it appears he quickly has regained his form.
The Nets were 2-2 while playing four games in seven days, and Irving averaged 27.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.3 assists during that span. He also shot 53.4% from the field and 39.3% from three-point range and played hustling, aggressive defense.
Now he gets four days off while the Nets play a home back-to-back against the Lakers on Tuesday and the Nuggets on Wednesday before a five-game West Coast swing that begins Friday at Golden State.
Asked following the loss to the Timberwolves how he expects to handle the time off, Irving said, "We just talked about it in the locker room, four days at home and then we’re back on the road. It’s just a lot to look forward to. First, the guys are going to have to galvanize and be able to take care of this back-to-back against two great teams in the league [Lakers and Nuggets] that ultimately are going to be competing in the Western Conference for a championship run.
"So it will be a good test. In the meantime, I’m just staying in the gym, staying in shape as best I can just playing with the ‘stay ready’ group and staying engaged and doing what I can to stay in a rhythm."
When it was suggested that he looks like his old self, Irving smiled. "I think I’m slowly crawling into my prime right now if I had to evaluate myself," Irving said. "But coming off a good road trip like this was a good test, and I’m just grateful I was able to get up and down and come out of these games healthy.
"I feel like I’m in a better rhythm just shape-wise, being able to play both ends of the ball and in terms of getting to my spots and knocking down some easy shots. And then, game to game just making adjustments. That was new for me. We were 2-2. We split it. Wish we were 3-1 or 4-0, but sometimes, it just happens that way."
Overall, the Nets are 4-3 in the games Irving has played, but they have averaged 120.4 points in those games, which underlines the impact Irving makes on the Nets’ offensive efficiency. In Friday’s victory at San Antonio, Irving took over in the fourth quarter with 15 points to close out the win.
When coach Steve Nash was asked about Irving’s ability to score in bunches, he said, "He can score any way you like it. Sometimes, it’s in bunches, sometimes it’s a steady flow. As he finds his rhythm here again, it’s great for us to see him succeeding and feeling confident and getting that rhythm back."