How Nets' Kyrie Irving stayed ready: 'I got a chance to see the game from another viewpoint'

·3 min read
Kyrie Irving smiling with James Harden partially obstructed white uniform
Kyrie Irving smiling with James Harden partially obstructed white uniform

Kyrie Irving's impact on the Nets as a part-time player was abundantly clear in Wednesday's game at the Washington Wizards, a 119-118 win.

Brooklyn (28-16) survived the Wizards (23-22) behind Irving's game-high 30 points on 13-of-23 shooting and seven assists in 38 minutes, his best performance yet since he returned to action Jan. 5 as a part-time player for road games.

Asked about the work that he put in before his return, Irving detailed a unique plan for staying ready.

"I'll tell you this -- shout out to my dad," Irving said. "He really taught me how to play the game on different levels -- whether you're playing an athletic style of game or a very skilled type of game, defensive-minded type of game -- he really taught me how to just come in and be a great piece, be a great teammate. And if that looks like you being very aggressive on the offensive end and you're taking majority of the offensive burden on your back, then that's one way. But for me, coming back, I didn't know how it was going to be. I just went in with an open mind, open heart.

"And the time when I was not on it, able to be with the team, I was playing 24 with a bunch of friends. I was playing with some high school kids. I was training high school kids, having open dialogue -- boys and girls from high school, and boys and girls from college as well, guys in the NBA, girls in the WNBA -- and that's what kept me connected is just I'm not too far away from the game. I'm able to still watch. I'm able to still observe. I'm able to still teach. But they were teaching me, and I was -- like I said the other day, I had FOMO (fear of missing out).

"But really, it was just -- I got a chance to see the game from another viewpoint, how much impact we really make in the world on this and how much your message can be spread out. So I grouped all that together to just be in the gym every once in a while and not put too much pressure on myself to feel like I have to be there all the time, and I just let God do the rest and now we're here. So I'm just grateful to be able to share this with you guys and move on."

Jan 19, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) leaps to pass the ball as Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) defends during the first quarter at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 19, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) leaps to pass the ball as Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) defends during the first quarter at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Irving one-upped his effort from Tuesday's 114-107 loss at the Cleveland Cavaliers, when he posted a game-high 27 points on 12-of-23 shooting while adding nine assists and seven rebounds in 38 minutes.

With Kevin Durant out 4-to-6 weeks while nursing an MCL sprain, Irving's presence on the road is especially felt as the Nets continue through a four-game trip that continues at the San Antonio Spurs (Friday, 8:30 p.m.) and Minnesota Timberwolves (Sunday, 8 p.m.).

"(Irving) knows the game, plays the game the right way, gets me so many mid-range shots where the guy's not even close to me," said LaMarcus Aldridge, who scored 27 points on 11-of-15 shooting and a perfect 5-for-5 free-throw clip in 32 minutes off the bench at Washington. "I played the most with him last year. I was there five games and my five games were more with him than anyone. So I feel like our chemistry kind of came in those five games. I feel like this year we kind of picked up where we left off. And I would say it's been fun. He makes plays where you're looking and you're just like, 'Man.' You're glad he's on your team."