NEW YORK (AP) – Kyrie Irving can play home games now, so the Brooklyn Nets might be good enough to win the NBA championship.
Or they might be flawed enough to miss the playoffs entirely.
The exemption given by Mayor Eric Adams of the vaccine mandate that made Irving eligible to play in New York City should make the Nets even more explosive, perhaps too potent to be stopped four times even by the toughest defensive teams. With Irving and Kevin Durant together, the Nets can pile up the points.
They also give them up in bunches.Take Wednesday night in Memphis, for example. Irving poured in 43 points and Durant had 35. Yet, the Nets lost because they surrendered a whopping 132 points to a Grizzlies team that didn’t even have its best player, All-Star guard Ja Morant.
It’s games like that which make the Nets, who hope to still add Ben Simmons to improve their leaky defence, the most intriguing team in the league in the final days of the regular season.
They could win it all. They could lose once in the play-in tournament and be eliminated. “If they can ever line it up man, where both dudes are playing and playing at a high level, it’s going to be very, very scary, especially when Ben plays,” Portland coach Chauncey Billups said. “If” is an apt assessment of the Nets.
An everyday Irving provides a big boost. But Simmons still isn’t even practicing because of a herniated disk in his back, and who knows how much a player even of his ability can help after sitting out all season.
Irving has always been a spectacular offensive force, almost unmatched in his ability to create shots off his dazzling dribbling packages. His performance this season seems even more remarkable given how difficult it is to keep a rhythm with his inability to play at home.
The game on Wednesday was the first time he’d played in nine days since he had a career-high 60 on March 15 in Orlando.
Had the mandate remained in place, Irving would have been eligible to play in only two of the Nets’ final nine games, with six scheduled at home and one across town against the New York Knicks.