It’s almost that time – Scary Hours.
The Nets announced on Dec. 17 that they would allow All-Star guard Kyrie Irving to return to the team as a part-time player (only playing in road games) amidst all of the roster absences due to the league’s health and safety protocols.
Irving, himself, immediately entered the league’s health and safety protocols following that announcement but cleared protocols on Dec. 28.
MORE: When will Kyrie Irving make his Nets debut?
Irving returned to the practice court on Dec. 29, marking his first time with the team since a trip to San Diego during the preseason.
Just prior to his return, All-Star guard James Harden sat down with ESPN’s Malika Andrews to discuss a number of topics, including what to expect when Irving gets back.
“I know what it’s going to be like when Kyrie comes back,” Harden told Andrews. “It’s going to be elite. Like you got three of the best to ever do it.
“Obviously, we want him full-time, but we’ll figure that out later. Just to have him around, his spirit, his energy. Obviously, his skill set, his talent.”
Despite trading for Harden 13 games into the season last year, the Nets have only seen their Big Three of Harden, Durant and Irving play in eight regular-season games together. The trio played in all five games against the Celtics in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs and it was terrifying to see, as they averaged a combined 85.2 points per game while shooting 53.1 percent from the field and 45.2 percent from 3-point range. That only lasted so long before Harden went down with an injury in Game 1 of the Conference Semifinals against the Bucks, followed by Irving going down with an injury in Game 4 before Harden returned in Game 5.
MORE: Where did Durant, Harden fall among the top 30 players in the NBA?
That leaves the superstar trio with a grand total of 13 games played together (14 if you count the 43 seconds Harden played in Game 1 of the ECSF), giving them a 10-3 record in those contests.
However, with Irving’s return to practice, we’re inching closer to seeing all three of the Nets’ stars on the floor together once again.
“Last night I could barely sleep,” Irving said after his first practice, according to the New York Post’s Brian Lewis . “I’m like, man, I just don’t want to come out and not be who I know I am as a player. … (My) heart racing and just not being nervous and touching the basketball again, and just the rhythm of the game. I missed it.”
He also mentioned his excitement for his first potential game back, which could come on Jan. 5 when the Nets travel to Indiana to take on the Pacers.
“I’m at peace with the ramp-up but I can’t sugarcoat it — I’m just looking forward to that first game, whether it be the 5th or sometime after that,” Irving stated, according to The New York Daily News’ Kristian Winfield.
Even without Irving, the Nets own the best record in the Eastern Conference at 23-9. They are set to host a three-game homestand before their matchup in Indiana on Jan. 5, but if Irving can’t go then, he’ll almost certainly be set to play in their next road game against the Bulls in Chicago on Jan. 12.