Kyrie Irving is returning to a soft landing.
The Nets will get back their All-Star guard Monday, just in time for the final two legs of a three-game stretch against the three worst teams in the NBA. After narrowly squeezing by the Pistons in Irving’s third straight game missed due to personal reasons, the Nets are home Monday against the Timberwolves and Wednesday against the Rockets.
“Kyrie is available,” coach Steve Nash said in his status report after Sunday’s practice, “So excited to have him back, and everyone else still to be monitored. We’ll see how it goes, but for [Monday] it’s just Kyrie.”
Irving’s return should take some of the load off of MVP candidate James Harden, who is battling neck soreness and a “banged-up knee.” Harden missed one game last week, too, but was forced to take 30 shots, score 44 points and play 42 minutes in his return against the Pistons.
With Kevin Durant still sidelined, the Nets used a “Big Two” of Harden and newcomer Blake Griffin. Irving restores a temporary “Big Three” nature, albeit without the alpha Durant for at least another week.
“Key guy for us,” forward Bruce Brown said of Irving. “One of our leaders, one of our brothers. To be back with us is huge for us. The way he plays the game makes it all easier for everybody on the floor.”
Landry Shamet (right ankle sprain) will not play against the Timberwolves.
“I think Landry needs a little bit of time,” Nash said. “It’s not going to be a long-term thing.”
In case you thought Harden’s “I think I am the MVP” declaration after Friday’s game might be seen as selfish within the locker room, it’s not. No surprise when he leads the NBA in assists.
“He literally does everything for us,” Brown said. “He is our captain out there on both ends of the floor. I know he doesn’t get a lot of kudos for his defensive play, but he definitely straps up when he needs to. He is making me look like a great player out there, so I give him kudos for that.”