Kyrie Irving’s return will solve some problems for the Nets, but not all of them.
The Kyrie Irving experience is a roller-coaster. The Brooklyn Nets are welcoming him back into the fold as a part-time player after previously telling him to stay away from the team. With Irving only playing in road games, he can help the Nets, but his return won’t solve all of their problems.
Load Management Concerns
This is one area where Irving can be a big help for the Nets, and more specifically his two superstar teammates — Kevin Durant and James Harden.
Nets coach Steve Nash has expressed concern throughout the year about overworking Durant and Harden. Irving’s return to road games gives Nash the option to give these guys nights off here and there.
The Nets played it that way last season when all three stars were healthy. They are almost unbeatable when all three are on the court together, but they don’t need to be invincible during the regular season.
The most important thing for the Nets is making it to the playoffs fully healthy. Even if he’s not playing home games, Irving can take some of the pressure off of Durant and Harden.
Now, this isn’t to say that Nash’s rotations are a major problem, but his lineup decisions don’t always work. He’s been forced to mix and match amidst Irving’s absence, a half-baked Harden, injuries, and plenty of COVID issues.
Creating a cohesive and consistent rotation has been anything but easy for the second-year coach. Although Irving won’t directly affect the home lineups, he will make it remarkably easy on Nash away from Barclays Center.
Having the Irving-Durant-Harden trio gives Nash the chance to stagger his stars so that he always has two of them on the floor.
Another option — and one that Nash was keen on last year — would be to let Harden run as the lone star with the second unit. Harden’s post-COVID revival is making that a more enticing option.
It’s going to be much easier for Nash to put together lineups that click on the road with Irving at his disposal. This is a problem half-solved.
Bad at Barclays
This is one issue that Irving can’t do anything about while he remains unvaccinated. For whatever reason, the Nets are bad at home this year. In fact, they are 10-9 at home and 13-3 on the road.
Teams are going to need to batten down the hatches when they welcome the Nets to town, but they are still going to play the Irving-less version of the Nets in Barclays.
One could make an argument that Irving’s ability to give Durant and Harden rest on the road should have a trickle-down effect on home games, but that’s a reach.
Irving is back. Love him or hate him, his talent on the court is undeniable. His return is going to give the Nets an undeniable lift, but he doesn’t solve all of their problems.