Kyrie Irving has a championship ring, has been to the All-Star Game six times and is one of the most recognizable faces in the NBA.
Given all that, Nets coach Kenny Atkinson headed into training camp wondering if some of the members of his young team would be a bit star-struck by the addition of their new point guard.
“It’s interesting to see how each player reacts to playing with him,” Atkinson said Wednesday after the team held its first intrasquad scrimmage. That’s kind of the discovery kind of journey we are on. Seeing how they all interact.
“The fear when you bring in great players is people defer too much,” Atkinson said . “I haven’t seen that. Kyrie has done a good job of making sure they don’t defer. Whether it’s sharing it or making the right play or getting off the ball sometimes. I’ve been really pleased with it.”
In the pantheon of coaching problems, worrying about adjusting to the addition of a great player is a bit like a lotto winner fretting about finding a bag big enough to carry his new cash. In other words, it’s a problem a lot of teams would like to have.
The Nets, the big winners in this summer’s free agency, look destined to face that problem two years in a row as former MVP Kevin Durant is expected to be out all of this year.
Joe Harris was a teammate of Irving’s on the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014-15, and he knows the attitude the star point brings to the court.
“It wouldn’t say we really defer to him. To be honest, it’s kind of a seamless transition,” Harris said about getting used to Irving after playing the last season and a half with D’Angelo Russell. “D-Lo kind of carried us a lot offensively last year. A lot of the offense facilitated through him. Kyrie supplants that role pretty easily and seamlessly. From that standpoint, I don’t think anyone is deferring to anyone.
“We all know his talent level. Kyrie has consistently has been one of the best players, best point guards in his league. You expect a lot out of him, but he brings it every day and competes hard in practice. He could very easily just kind of coast and do whatever he would like. He’s earned that in this league. But he competes and he’s competed since the moment he signed with us.”
Irving, who is playing with a mask after fracturing his face in four places last week, scrimmaged fully with the team. He is not expected to play Friday when the Nets open preseason play against Franca Basquetebol of Brazil.
Atkinson said he liked what he saw in the scrimmage: “The new guys are picking it up. Kyrie’s going to be the quarterback and has picked up the plays and our defensive system kind of seamlessly. I’m very pleased so far.”