Mary Altaffer/Associated Press
Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving posted a cryptic statement Saturday on Instagram after scoring 38 points in Friday night’s loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Irving’s comments received a stamp of approval from teammate Kevin Durant:
The 28-year-old six-time All-Star returned to the Brooklyn lineup Wednesday after a two-week hiatus for personal reasons. He was fined $50,000 for violating the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols and forfeited over $816,000 in salary for two of his missed games.
“I’m back. I’m happy to be back,” Irving told reporters Tuesday. “And we got some great pieces and we just move on and I let my actions and my game speak for itself like I planned on doing. Just needed a pause.”
He declined to answer whether he knowingly broke NBA guidelines during his time away but stressed the importance of finding the right work-life balance.
“When things become overwhelming in life, you’ve just got to take a step back and realize what’s important,” Irving said. “And I love to play—it’s never been a question. I’ve committed myself, when this wasn’t even a thing for me.”
The Nets acquired James Harden in a trade with the Houston Rockets during the Duke product’s time away, forming a championship-level foundation with Durant also back to full strength after he missed last season while recovering from an Achilles injury.
Irving hasn’t missed a beat since his return, tallying 75 points in two games, but Brooklyn lost each contest to Cleveland by 12 points.
It’s going to take some time before the new-look roster begins to click, and there are questions about the squad’s defense, but high-end talent is king in the NBA, and the Nets’ superstar triumvirate rightfully vaulted them into the title conversation.
“We just need to find a way to play harder, dig deeper,” head coach Steve Nash said after Friday’s loss. “We are not a defensive roster. We have to take more pride, contest more shots, fight, scrap, claw, and that’s what I think is missing as much as anything schematic that we’re breaking down.”
Brooklyn will attempt to get back in the win column Saturday night when the Miami Heat visit the Barclays Center for an 8 p.m. ET tip-off on NBA TV.