Kyrie Irving’s performances continue to be a tease for Nets

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Each second of brilliance is adopted by resignation. 

The Nets can solely get pleasure from a 50-point masterpiece from Kyrie Irving for so lengthy earlier than checking the schedule once more. A defensively excellent sport from Irving is proof of what the Nets’ season can be — after which the layoff reminds what the Nets’ season has been. 

At least to this point, it has been a tease. 

Irving was a totally different sort of spectacular in Thursday’s 129-100 destruction of the 76ers, by which he scored 22 factors however was extra spectacular on the opposite facet of the courtroom. For a lot of the sport, he shadowed James Harden, and the follow time the 2 have shared confirmed. Seemingly each transfer Harden made Irving was prepared for, limiting The Beard to simply his worst sport because the commerce that despatched him from Brooklyn to Philadelphia. 

In dismantling one other contender, the Nets provided a tantalizing glimpse on the title-winning staff they will be even earlier than Ben Simmons debuts. And but, barring a late-season rule change from the mayor’s workplace or mindset change from the purpose guard, Irving solely can contact the courtroom in 4 of the Nets’ remaining 15 video games earlier than the postseason. He received’t play Sunday, when the Nets play host to the Knicks, and is eligible for one sport of their subsequent 5. 

Kyrie Irving guards James Harden during the Nets' win over the 76ers.
Kyrie Irving guards James Harden in the course of the Nets’ win over the 76ers.
USA TODAY Sports

Irving, after all, is unvaccinated and unable to play in house video games — or video games on the Garden, the place the Nets go to April 6, or video games in Toronto, which looms as a potential play-in vacation spot. He has proven no willingness to be persuaded into being jabbed and has cited beliefs that he feels are larger than basketball. 

The Nets have hoped the personal sector mandate that won’t enable Irving to step on the Barclays Center courtroom is lifted, however there was no motion even after Mayor Adams lifted the town’s vaccine mandate for indoor companies, eating and occasions on Monday. 

There has been no indication from Adams that the personal sector mandate is altering anytime quickly. 

“Status quo remains,” a supply instructed The Post on Friday, with lower than a month left within the common season. 

“It’s not really in our control, so we leave it up to the mayor and wait patiently,” Nets coach Steve Nash stated final month. 

Without motion, each candy play from Irving turns into bittersweet. On Thursday, a lot of these performs got here defensively. 

Irving, among the finest ball-handlers in NBA historical past, has by no means been recognized for clamping opponents down, however he is aware of the sport and is aware of opponents’ tendencies. The Nets usually change on picks, but Irving waved off switches and hung shut with a former teammate who had pressured his method out. 

Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving
USA TODAY Sports

What Irving lacked in weight he made up for in quickness, exhibiting good anticipation and slapping the ball away from Harden and out of bounds early within the first quarter. 

When Irving had the matchup, Harden shot 1 of seven for three factors with three assists and a turnover — a part of a nightmare, 3-for-17 night time for Harden. 

“Just taking the assignment and doing what I could to make it tough on him. Obviously James is not always going to shoot like that,” Irving stated of Harden, who didn’t play the fourth quarter as a result of they had been so buried. “But I just wanted to make it tough, be in his airspace.” 

If in a month Kevin Durant had been enjoying like maybe the perfect participant on the planet, which he has been since getting back from harm, Irving had been a full-time, underrated two-way famous person and Simmons returned to play wonderful protection at a minimal, the Nets’ path to the Finals — no matter their seed — would be clear. 

But nothing is evident this season with Irving, who conceivably might be pressured to watch a few play-in video games from afar. If the eighth-place Nets and seventh-place Raptors maintain their slots, the Nets would journey to Canada with out Irving for a one-game showdown for the seventh seed. If Brooklyn misplaced that sport, it could play host to the winner of the 9-10 sport — the Hornets and Hawks for the time being — and barring a rule or vaccination change, Irving couldn’t assist the Nets in a win-or-go-home scenario. 

Every attractive floater or savvy play from Irving excites the staff and fan base. But pleasure turns into realization quickly sufficient. 

— Additional reporting by Nolan Hicks

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