A day later, players still talking about Kyrie Irving's 60-point game
Once again, the player who couldn’t play was all anyone wanted to talk about on Wednesday.
Kyrie Irving, fresh off his 60-point jaw-dropping performance Tuesday in Orlando, had tentative plans to be in attendance Wednesday night when his team hosted the Dallas Mavericks. It was the first of three straight games where the unvaccinated Irving won’t be able to play for the Nets as they host Portland on Friday and Utah on Monday.
Just how much this team would like Irving to be a full-time player was underscored Wednesday when it was revealed that Ben Simmons, who hasn’t played a game this season, underwent an epidural for his sore back while the Nets were in Orlando.
"The idea was to try to accelerate his recovery and take some of the irritation down," Nets coach Steve Nash said in his pregame news conference. "Hopefully that will help him relieve some of the symptoms and be able to recover quicker and accelerate that process."
Nash said there is no timeline right now for Simmons return as they are waiting to see if the procedure helps.
When the Nets acquired Simmons at the trade deadline from the 76ers, they were hoping they could get a young All-Star to play alongside Irving and Kevin Durant. Simmons, who had been unhappy in Philadelphia, had not played a game while holding out for a trade. He began to ramp up his conditioning when he got to the Nets, but then apparently suffered setback a couple of weeks ago when his back began to hurt.
At the start of the season, the Nets were the Vegas favorite to win an NBA title. Irving’s inability to play home games because of the vaccine mandate and a knee injury that caused Durant to miss 21 games precipitated the team to drop from first place in January to a No. 8 play in spot.
The Nets entered the Dallas game having won four games in a row with the last 72 hours being all about Irving.
Irving attended his first game of the year at the Barclays Center on Sunday as the change in local COVID mandates made it possible for him to be in attendance even though he cannot play. On Monday, the team was fined $50,000 for allowing Irving to enter the Nets' locker room at halftime because it violated the league’s COVID-19 protocols.
Then on Tuesday, Irving had a performance that reminded everyone just exactly why the Nets are willing to put up with all the drama that comes from having him as a part-time player.
Irving, who was cheered by the Orlando crowed from late in the second quarter on, scored 41 points in the first half. The last player in the NBA to score as many as Irving in a Suns guard Devin Booker, who dropped 51 points in the second half of a March 24, 2017, game against the Boston Celtics.
The entire Nets bench seemed to know they were seeing history in the making when Irving went 14-for-19 from the field, including 6-for-7 from three-point range and 7-for-7 from the line in the first half.
"I'm sure in the first quarter y'all seen it developing," Durant said. "Sixteen in the first and then midway through the second all of us on the bench are still looking -- it's just like that every game for Ky, when you look up and, like, 'Damn, he got 10, 12, 14 points already.' We seen he was well on his way to a high-scoring night, so 60 -- the night after Karl Towns had an incredible performance, and then to have Kyrie do it the next night, the league is in an incredible place right now."