Kyrie Irving has ramped up his individual work but still is not cleared for contact and might not be for another week, Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said.
Irving, who has missed 12 games with a shoulder impingement that originally was considered a day-to-day injury, is shooting, Atkinson said, and the Nets plan “to integrate him in the next week or two into team practices.”
The Nets went 4-7 when Irving was healthy. After Sunday’s 105-102 victory over the Nuggets, they are 9-3 in his absence, thanks to a second unit that has jelled offensively and strong defensive improvement.
Atkinson acknowledged that there will be difficult decisions to make once Irving and Caris LeVert return from their injuries, but he’s eager to have his best player suit up.
“We want him back ASAP,” Atkinson said. “We’ll do what we have to do right now with the rotation. That being said, I like the chemistry they’re building, the identity they’re building, but it doesn’t change the thought process. You want your best players back, and that’s Kyrie. And don’t forget about Caris.”
LeVert, Atkinson said, is “progressing well” after thumb surgery last month, though he declined to provide a timetable.
As for Irving, Atkinson said he isn’t overly concerned about the longer-than-estimated recuperation. Injuries, he said, are complicated, and fluctuating timetables are to be expected.
All of this, though, does give him ample time to figure out what to do with those second-unit players who have stepped up big in the last few weeks — players such as Spencer Dinwiddie, who has run the point in Irving’s absence, and Garrett Temple, who has taken LeVert’s place in the backcourt.
“There’ll be a lot of decisions to make,” Atkinson said. “What does the rotation look like when those guys come back? We’re definitely talking about it behind the scenes.”