For Kyrie Irving, it’s complicated.
That is the best way to explain how the star point guard will feel Wednesday night when he steps onto the court at the Barclays Center to play his first game in a Nets uniform.
In so many ways, Wednesday night is a dream come true for the guard. He will be playing in front of his family for the franchise he rooted for when he was a young baller in New Jersey. Yet, as fate and the NBA scheduling gods would have it, it will also be a tough day as it is also the one-year anniversary of his grandfather’s death.
“I mean, it’s a lot going on for me tomorrow,” Irving said after practice Tuesday. “Tomorrow is the first game of being back home. But the 23rd last year was where things really shifted for me in my personal life.
“So it’s a combination of emotions. I’m just glad my family could be there for me.”
It was the death of his maternal grandfather, George Larson, that Irving said caused him to reevaluate his priorities and ultimately led to his coming to Brooklyn.
Irving had told Boston fans before the start of last season that he planned to re-sign with the Celtics. But when his grandfather died, the 27-year-old point guard said he fell into a depression that he believed caused him to isolate himself from his Boston teammates and contributed to his leadership struggles.
“After he passed, basketball was the last thing on my mind,” Irving said last month at Nets media day. “A lot of basketball and the joy I had for it was sucked away from me.”
Irving’s mother, Elizabeth, died of sepsis syndrome when he was 4 years old. He was raised by his father, Drederick, on the East Coast, but maintained a relationship with Elizabeth’s parents who lived in the state of Washington. When he became an NBA player, the demands of his career took precedence over everything, even his family.
“I barely got a chance to talk to my grandfather before he passed . . . ,” Irving said in September. “You tell me if you want to go to work every single day knowing that you just lost somebody close to you.
"A lot of the battles I thought I could battle through in the team environment, I wasn’t ready for. I failed [the Celtics]. I didn’t give them everything I could have during that season. In terms of me being a leader and bringing everyone together, I failed. It’s a huge learning experience to just slow down and acknowledge that I’m human.”
The loss of his grandfather helped Irving gain a new perspective. He wanted to be close to his family. He wanted to come home. So he recruited his good friend Kevin Durant and landed on a team where he hopes to stay.
“I just wanted to be in a place for me, ” Irving said after practice Tuesday. “It was an easy decision . . . This is the heart of basketball. I grew up playing here in these different boroughs going from Jersey on the George Washington bridge. And now I get a chance to have my family come here for 41 games.”
If the Nets have their way this year, it will be a few more than that.