Kyrie Irving will not travel to Cleveland with the Brooklyn Nets as he rehabs a right shoulder impingement.
Sunday marks the beginning of a three-game road trip for the Nets with games against the Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Boston Celtics.
— Danny Small (@dwsmall8) November 24, 2019
“I know he’s not traveling to Cleveland,” Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said.
He wasn’t so sure about whether or not Irving would make the trip to Boston when the Nets take on the Celtics. The meeting was supposed to be Irving’s much-anticipated return to face his former team.
Brooklyn will host Boston two days later in the Barclays Center, but it’s still unclear where Irving will be in his recovery at that point. Looking ahead even further, the division rivals won’t meet again until March 3 in TD Garden.
The Nets are 3-1 without Irving in the lineup. Obviously, Brooklyn is a better team with their star point guard playing—and Atkinson made that clear—but he was quick to note the job being done by Spencer Dinwiddie.
“I will say this, I think with Spencer and those guys, they’ve been in the program for years,” Atkinson said pregame. “It’s a big difference when you’ve had a lot of reps. I think Kyrie is still learning exactly what we want to do. I think Spencer has got a little bit more corporate knowledge…I think it’s going to take time for Kyrie to completely understand what we’re doing on both sides of the ball. That being said, for not understanding, he’s been pretty darn good.”
The point guard matchup looks awfully different from when these two teams met on Oct. 25. The Knicks’ starting point guard was Elfrid Payton and Frank Ntilikina did not play in that game despite being fully healthy.
Now, Payton is shelved with a nagging right hamstring strain while Ntilikina has taken a firm grip on the starting job. The Frenchman won’t be sneaking up on Brooklyn though.
“He’s always given the Nets trouble, he just has,” Atkinson said. “His pressure defense, he’s changed games, he’s won games against us almost single-handedly so I know he’s on our scouting report and we understand the defensive presence he represents. I think he’s getting more confident offensively from watching film. He’s a young player, growing player who’s starting to play well.”
It’s not the point guard matchup most people expected in New York, but the Dinwiddie-Ntilikina showdown is one of the most interesting storylines in the latest installment of this rivalry.