The Nets swear by the judgment of their performance team, and it undoubtedly was a critical element in recruiting free agents Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving last summer. So just as they took precautionary steps to rule out a Durant return this season while he recovers from Achilles tendon surgery, they also are taking the long view of a right shoulder impingement that caused Irving to miss his third straight game against the Hornets Wednesday night at Barclays Center.
Asked if Irving could play through it if it were a playoff game, coach Kenny Atkinson said no. “I wouldn’t say we’re being overcautious,” Atkinson said. “I think he has a situation that has prevented him from playing. This is kind of a collaborative thing. This is the best course of action. Do I think it’s a long-term thing? No. I don’t think he can play through it right now quite honestly. He’s working on it with our performance team, working to get well.”
Atkinson noted the Nets have handled injuries well in the past, including the dislocated ankle that sidelined Caris LeVert for 42 games last season. As it happens, LeVert now is out for about five weeks to recover from surgery on his right thumb. Irving was injured a week ago Tuesday in Utah and then, in Atkinson’s words, “gutted it out” last Thursday in Denver.
“We convened after that and said we have to get this thing right and think about the long term, his long-term health and our long-term plan as a team,” Atkinson said.
The coach expressed doubt Irving will practice with the Nets on Thursday, which means he likely will not play against the Kings Friday night at Barclays Center.
“Usually, we’re not just going to throw you out there without seeing you,” Atkinson said. “We have these set standards in the past. I think he understands that. We’re not at that point yet. Hopefully he will get there soon.”