Last season was a weird one for the Nets, and it only got weirder over the summer. Ben Simmons still hadn’t suited up for Brooklyn in a real game, Kevin Durant requested a trade, and while Kyrie Irving opted in for the 2022-23 season, his name was churning through the trade rumor mill.
But here we are, on the eve of the Nets opening up their season at the Barclays Center Wednesday night against the New Orleans Pelicans, and they’re all still on the roster. And not only that but unlike the majority of last season, all three are ready to play.
Simmons being ready to play is its own news, but Irving taking the floor at home is something that only happened six times in 2021-22 because of his COVID-19 vaccination status. Now, he’s looking to far surpass the 29 games he played last season for Brooklyn. In addition, Irving appears ready to change the storylines that have been written about him.
Here’s what teammate Nic Claxton had to say about Irving and his presence (quote via New York Post):
[Irving] is bringing a totally different energy this year. He’s definitely been locked in. He’s ready to make an impact and feel like he’s ready to change the narrative on him, on himself. That’s big for us having him full time and not having to worry about the COVID stuff.
This squad is built around Irving and Durant leading the way. With Irving missing virtually all of the Nets’ home games and Durant spraining his MCL, these two combined to play in just 84 games last year. If there was more of a presence from either of them, one would have to imagine there would’ve been a different result in the playoffs than getting swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round.
But with a new year comes a clean slate, and it appears as though Irving is approaching this season as unfinished business. The 30-year-old also has an uncertain future he’ll be playing for when it comes to his contract situation.
Before trade rumors started swirling over the summer, Irving exercised his player option to remain with Brooklyn. He’s slated to earn just a shade under $37 million this season and is due to become an unrestricted free agent once the year is complete.
Regardless of whether he sticks with the Nets or goes elsewhere, he needs to make what’s happened over the past couple of years more of a distant memory than it is now. That starts on Wednesday against the Pelicans. From what we can see so far, Irving looks ready to start changing some opinions.