Kyrie Irving’s Nets debut in Shanghai, China, lasted exactly one minute and six seconds before he took a blow to the face that exacerbated a previous facial injury. But he practiced the past two days, is scheduled to make his home debut against the NBA champion Raptors in the Nets’ final preseason game Friday night at Barclays Center and coach Kenny Atkinson says Irving has suffered no setbacks in terms of preparing for the regular season.
Describing his approach to using Irving against the Raptors following Thursday’s practice, Atkinson said, “This is a game we want to prepare for like a regular-season game. I don’t think he’ll be there at the minutes I expect in the regular season. He’ll still play good minutes but not regular-season minutes. Not yet.
“I think he’s headed in the right direction . . . We need to get that chemistry going, his chemistry with that starting group. I think that’s key. So, that’s Step 1.”
For the second straight day since the Nets resumed practice after returning from a two-game sweep of the Lakers in China, Irving did not address the media. However, veteran center DeAndre Jordan said the unusual circumstances the Nets faced handling political turmoil surrounding the games in China was an important bonding experience for a team with seven new veterans added to a young core.
“It was eventful,” Jordan said with a smile. “There was a lot of stuff going on that we were not prepared for, but as a pretty smart team and a mature team, we dealt with it the way we were supposed to.
“I thought we took a step forward by being mature and actually sticking to our commitment, going there and staying there and playing in the games and sticking to what we said we were going to do. I’m proud of our guys for that.”
Besides Irving and Jordan, the Nets obviously added Kevin Durant, who did not go to China because he is rehabbing from Achilles tendon surgery, and they also added seasoned players such as Taurean Prince, Garrett Temple and David Nwaba to the mix. So far, that maturity has been evident on and off the court.
“I was expecting a lot more bumps and a lot more questions in terms of our tactics and what we’re doing,” Atkinson said. “It’s been pretty seamless. Toronto will be a good test to see where we are and get a better measuring stick.”
Although James and fellow Lakers superstar Anthony Davis played only one quarter in their second loss in Shenzhen, it’s clear the Nets have tremendous depth and improved three-point shooting, and Atkinson said they have upgraded their speed and athleticism.
“Take it with a little bit of a grain of salt since [the Lakers] starters didn’t play the majority of the minutes, but I liked our process,” Atkinson said. “I really liked the feedback we got from watching the games. I would take that travel, even though it was a long trip, over three or four days here in training camp. I think the bonding and everything you go through on a road trip brought all of us closer together. That was a real positive.”