WASHINGTON — Never mind that Kyrie Irving reinforced his anti-vaccination status following the Nets’ loss Monday in Cleveland. The fact is, as a road-only player, he is eligible for eight of the next 10 Nets games starting Wednesday night against the Wizards at Capital One Arena.
Irving led the Nets with 27 points in their loss to the Cavaliers Monday in Cleveland. That was the first of a long stretch of games without Kevin Durant, who reportedly is out four to six weeks with a strained left MCL. So it’s up to Irving and James Harden to carry the Nets without leading MVP candidate Durant.
"I think we just have to be ready to make adjustments on the fly and do whatever is needed for guys to fill in that role," Irving said when asked how they carry on without Durant. "I mean, you can’t ever replace Kevin. It’s impossible. So I think we face that reality right this second and moving forward on this road trip. We just have to be very mature about it as a basketball club and just be ready to be flexible game to game.
"Guys are going to see some spotty minutes here and there. We know that on a given night, me and James can go for 30 apiece. But we’re really looking forward to seeing a lot of guys chipping in on the offensive end. Defensively, our communication has to be really crisp because we don’t have somebody that can really clean up some of the mistakes on the back side like Kevin. I’m still finding my bearings with the team, so I’m just taking it one game at a time."
Irving’s outing in Cleveland was only his fourth game this season. At first, the Nets said he couldn’t play unless he was eligible for every game, but they relented on Dec. 17 and welcomed him back as a part-time player because of his unvaccinated status.
Since Harden joined the Nets just over a year ago, the Nets’ Big 3 only have played 16 games together. Irving asked if they even had 20 games together and was amused when reporters told him it was 16.
"You guys are keeping track," Irving said. "Man, I’m with you. And I’m with the fans at home. They’re like, ‘What’s going on with the Nets’ Big 3? They can’t stay healthy.’ I say to that, our time is coming."
Well, the fact is Durant is likely out at least through the All-Star break, which ends Feb. 24. The Nets have 23 games after that, but Irving only is eligible for eight road games over the final two months.
Asked how things have looked for the Nets since Harden was acquired a year ago versus how it was supposed to look with such a great threesome, Irving said, "Loaded question, man. It’s a lot to process — what we intended to be and what we still intend to be and all these hiccups and uncontrollable things. It’s tough when you think about how all this is still coming together, and we have yet to play consistent amount."