On Friday, the Nets learned they would be without Kevin Durant for the last three games before the All-Star break after previously losing him for six games with a left hamstring strain. On Saturday afternoon, the other shoe dropped when they announced Kyrie Irving would sit out that night’s game against Dallas at Barclays Center because of what was described as "right shoulder — injury recovery."
"I don’t think it’s serious," coach Steve Nash said before the game. "I think it’s maintenance. He has a history with that shoulder, and he is taking the necessary precautions to make sure that he can keep up the maintenance on that shoulder. But I don’t think it is anything more than that. I’d expect him to play in the next game [Monday at San Antonio], and if not, I don’t think it is a thing that will linger into the All-Star break."
The key word employed by Nash to describe Irving’s situation was "maintenance." Irving suffered a right shoulder injury that limited him to 20 games last season before he required surgery in March. The notion of "maintenance" suggested it was a case of load management, not a new injury.
However, the Nets-Mavs game was an ABC telecast, and the NBA has discouraged teams from resting stars in nationally televised games. When Nash was asked if it was load management, he smiled and said, "You’re not going to get me tonight, you troublemaker. Let me repeat it: He has a history with the shoulder and he’s going to maintain the strength and nature of that joint by rehabbing and protecting it tonight."
As for how the rest of the Nets might react to playing without two stars, Nash said, "I don’t think it’s a big departure. I don’t think the guys are that affected by change.They’re used to inconsistency with our availability, and it’s no big deal."
The NBA might disagree.