NEW YORK – Kyrie Irving is back for the Brooklyn nets and her impact has been immediate.
Irving scored 21 points in 10-on-11 shooting with four rebounds and three assists, leading the nets to a 108-86 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday at the Barclays Center. Although he only played 20 minutes, Brooklyn had a differential of over 22 points while he was there.
Irving was sidelined for 26 games due to a right shoulder injury. He recently returned to training and Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said the level guard would be leaving on Sunday evening.
Three hours before the setback, Irving was on the field shooting. He made jump shots and 3 points, darted on the field exercising his famous handles and practicing free throws.
From the appearance of his pre-match warm-up, bystanders would not have been able to guess that Irving hadn’t been playing since mid-November due to a conflict. He released shots without a hitch, although his shooting arm called for a cortisone shot last month.
Last week Irving said that the surgery could still be considered if there were no improvements, but during the week he took part in the full workouts and Atkinson said that Irving is ready.
His efforts helped Brooklyn achieve a second consecutive win, following a losing streak in seven high season games, and renewed vigor was present by the team, both on the floor and on the bench.
Atlanta played without Trae Young, who has a left knee injury. Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said his second year star was cured on Saturday, but continued to experience pain on Sunday. Brandon Goodwin started in his place and had 8 points, 4 rebounds and 2 steals.
The Hawks’ decision kept fans at a Young-Irving meeting of the two Eastern Conference leaders on guard in the fan vote for the All-Star Game.
Without Irving this season, the goals are 13-13. Spencer Dinwiddie, who moved from the men’s sixth slot to the starting point guard in the absence of Irving, started alongside Irving on Sunday, ending with seven points and eight assists. The networks had never started the two together. Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince and Joe Harris have also started.
Typically, nets are extremely cautious when it comes to bringing back injured players. Caris LeVert, who lost nearly seven weeks due to a thumb injury, was an appetizer before her surgery in mid-November. Sunday marked his fourth game due to an injury, and has yet to begin. LeVert had 13 points against the Hawks.
“We treat each player individually,” said Atkinson pregame. “I can only say, yes, we are conservative, but first of all we take care of the players.”
The information from Malika Andrews and The Associated Press from ESPN was used in this report.