The Nets started their "Big Three" of Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving together for the first time Wednesday night in Cleveland, and first-year coach Steve Nash said it was just the first step of a long journey, not a defining moment. In fact, it was the first game for Irving since Jan. 5 after missing the previous seven games, so he needed to get back into the flow of things.
"You get great players and you don’t want to complicate things," Nash said before the game. "You want to make it simple, have good spacing, allow them opportunities to be creative and use their skills. The second layer of that is to make each other better and feel a sense of sacrifice and connectivity.
"I don’t want to get mystical or philosophical, but it’s how joyful and pure can we make the game? It’s really about the way we’re playing and connectivity and to share and to make everything easier on one another. If we have that approach, I think there’s plenty of positive outcomes."
When he spoke to the media on Tuesday to explain why he missed five games for personal reasons, Irving betrayed a certain amount of mental fatigue and explained he was deeply troubled by social and political issues. Nash expressed support for him.
"We are human beings, and we have to protect him in every manner so he can perform to the best of his abilities, and part of that is being happy," Nash said. "Beyond basketball, it’s more important than basketball that he’s balanced, happy and thriving.
"If we can help him get there in his life by what his work environment provides for him, then, that’s No. 1. If there is a plan . . . it would just be to monitor it, to be here for him and to support him while he sorts out all the things that he’s going through, and we provide a layer of protection for him."