The Nets’ seismic heel-turn in letting Kyrie Irving be a part-time player isn’t putting any burden on the guard, who stood his ground, stayed unvaccinated and is now being allowed to play road games.
And it’s not putting pressure on the rest of the roster. Stars Kevin Durant and James Harden are getting some burden lifted off their shoulders and the supporting cast are getting a playmaker who’ll create for them.
No, the weight is on the Nets to sort out this weird never-before-seen dynamic.
It’s on coach Steve Nash to craft a home team and a separate road team and figure out how to juggle the two. It’s on the organization to bring in a guard who hasn’t played since June or practiced since October, and drop him into the mix. It’s on the medical staff to have an unvaccinated player sharing a locker room with another who has a heart condition, and still manage to keep them all safe.
It’s on the Nets to work it out.
“We’re going to rely heavily on our coaching staff to be able to provide us with some direction there. We’re just fully putting our trust in that,” Irving said. “The rest of it is just going to be up to our adaptability. … We all have very high IQs when we’re surrounded with other good teammates. My job out there is just to make the game easier.
“So when they asked me to come back, and you see me and James and K and we’re able to just seamlessly get back out on the floor and play, it goes back to what I said once James got here, that we have the talent, we have the IQ to be able to blend together. But this is going to be a new situation, new circumstance that we’re going to have to adjust to, and it’s just gonna take some patience.”
The man most responsible for mixing up that blend is Nash.
After the Nets insisted in October they weren’t going to let Irving be a part-time player, he’s now exactly that, still ineligible to play at home. Baseball is used to lefty-righty platoons, but a home-road platoon in the NBA is crazy.
Then again, Nash has never coached outside of a pandemic. Crazy is the baseline.
“My year or so on the job, I realize we live in a different time. So if I came in thinking here’s how we’re going to do it, it’s just not that way. You have to be adaptable,” Nash said. “If [there’s] anything I’ve learned in this period, [it] is to be flexible and to be willing to adapt quickly, and there’s going to be more decisions to be made rather than holding firm to the ones you’ve previously made.”
So now Nash is living in the consequence of that decision — a call ultimately made by Nets owner Joe Tsai and general manager Sean Marks, and assuredly influenced by Durant and Harden.
The Nets came to Irving; he didn’t come to them. And despite it being partially driven by a roster decimated by COVID-19, here they are bringing in a player unvaccinated against COVID-19. And that despite LaMarcus Aldridge’s preexisting heart condition.
Even once Irving has ramped up to the point at which he can actually play an NBA game, the Nets still only have 25 road games left, starting Jan. 5 at Indiana.
And Irving is ineligible to play both games at the Garden, or to even fly into Toronto. With the postponed date in Portland yet to be rescheduled, that leaves Irving with just 21 chances to play. Nash will have that many opportunities to get this right, to figure out lineups, rotations and tweaks.
“He’s only playing on the road, it’s less than 50 percent of the games. We’re not going to throw everything out for those 23 games or whatever it may be,” Nash said. “We’re gonna continue to adapt and build and grow and have a focus on improving. Now we have a few more variables thrown in.”