There is a stat for everything in sports these days, and while Kyrie Irving set a franchise record with 222 points in his first seven games with the Nets, it’s not as though there is an actual record book with that specific listing. But it’s something teams can track, it provides a measure of how well Irving has played, and as a lifelong Nets fan, he did appreciate the historical footnote when it was relayed to him following the Nets’ 135-125 victory over the Pelicans Monday night.
“I’m happy to go down as another ‘Irving’ in Nets history,” he quipped, referring to Nets Hall of Famer Julius (Dr. J) Erving. “That’s a great thing. I’m going to continue to say it, but it’s a dream come true. Since I was in fourth grade and was at an NBA Finals game [watching the Nets]…and now to be going in Nets history, I’m always appreciative of different records you break. Obviously, I know the important goals are ahead.”
Irving scored 39 points on 13-of-21 shooting and had nine assists against the Pelicans, and after the Nets’ lead shrank to two points with 4:43 left, he made a series of brilliant plays, penetrating and kicking out laser passes to open shooters. Even though Joe Harris and Caris LeVert both missed open looks, making the right plays put the Nets’ offense in gear. That’s what impressed coach Kenny Atkinson.
“Kyrie was fantastic at the end,” Atkinson said. “They started doubling him, and he got rid of it, threw it to Joe. He penetrated, there were four guys around him, and he fired a dart out. He’s really doing a great job of making the right play when there is tremendous pressure on him.”
Through seven games, Irving is averaging 31.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 7.7 assists. The last player to record that many points, rebounds and assists through the first seven games was Oscar Robertson for the 1965-66 Cincinnati Royals. Irving’s new teammates might not know all the historical details, but they understand his play has been special.
“He just kind of goes about his business, and then, you look up and he’s got 30,” Harris said. “He’s just an efficient player, an aggressive player throughout the course of the game. That’s what we need from him to have success.
“Obviously, we want the ball in Kyrie’s hands at the end of the game. Opposing teams know he’s going to be attacking and trying to get downhill and score. He was just making simple basketball plays. Everybody was collapsing on him and he was hitting the open guy.”
Considering the Nets were coming off a loss in Detroit and are facing a five-game trip that is the season’s longest, the Nets badly needed a victory over the one-win Pelicans. “We wanted to come out and win this game and really put a statement down for the rest of the week before we go on this long road trip,” Irving said. “So, we had intense focus. I know you could feel it out there. I was really just trying to create great energy with the basketball throughout the game.”