NBA

Nash and Durant hail Irving's Nets return: 'He looks like himself'

By Sports Desk January 06, 2022

Kyrie Irving made his return to the Brooklyn Nets side for the first time in seven months but you would not know that according to head coach Steve Nash and teammate Kevin Durant.

The pair were full of praise for 29-year-old Irving who had not played all season due to his vaccination status which meant he would be unavailable for home games in New York City, with the Nets not wanting him on a part-time basis.

The franchise changed their tune a fortnight ago, permitting him for road games, amid a COVID-19 outbreak which depleted their playing stocks. Irving had returned to practice and found his fitness before he played for the first time this season in Wednesday's 129-121 win over the Indiana Pacers.

Irving was on court for 32 minutes, scoring 22 points making nine-of-17 from the field along with three rebounds, four assists and three steals. The win also halted the Nets' three-game skid.

"He looks like himself," Nash said at the post-game news conference. "Not a big surprise watching him play in practice, he's so gifted and talented, you could see the rhythm was there.

"But it's still an adaptation. We've got to give him some space as he transitions back to playing but tonight he was big."

Durant scored 39 points with eight rebounds and seven assists as the Nets improved to 24-12 to sit second in the east behind the Chicago Bulls (25-10).

"It was amazing to have him out there," Durant told reporters. "I missed his presence around the locker room, his energy and his vibe around the team.

"On top of that, his game is just so beautiful. He makes the game so much easier for everybody out there.

"I'm sure he was a bit nervous but he got comfortable. He made some athletic plays. It looked like he'd be around for a while."

Related items

  • Pelicans star Zion Williamson cleared to return without any restrictions Pelicans star Zion Williamson cleared to return without any restrictions

    Zion Williamson has been cleared to return to play without any restrictions.

    The New Orleans Pelicans star did not play a single game this season due to a foot fracture as his team reached the playoffs through the play-in tournament, before losing 4-2 to the Phoenix Suns in the first round.

    Williamson has been troubled by fitness issues throughout his NBA career, and the former first overall pick returned to full team activities in late November, only to suffer further setbacks.

    However, the Pelicans confirmed on Thursday that the 21-year-old is finally able to return without restrictions, saying via a statement: "The New Orleans Pelicans announced today that recent imaging of Zion Williamson's right fifth metatarsal showed continued improvement.

    "Williamson has been cleared in his return to play progression without any restrictions."

    In the 2020-21 season, Williamson averaged 27.0 points and 7.2 rebounds from 61 games, and scored more than 20 in each of his last 15 games before getting injured just over a year ago.

    Williamson is eligible for a five-year, $181million max rookie extension ahead of the 2022-23 season, and he will not think twice if that offer comes from the Pelicans, recently saying: "Of course, I couldn't sign it fast enough."

  • Butler confident of Miami Heat revival Butler confident of Miami Heat revival

    Jimmy Butler is confident the Miami Heat can turn things around after falling 3-2 behind to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.

    Miami must now win back-to-back games after slumping to a 93-80 loss on Wednesday, despite having taken a 42-37 half-time lead.

    Boston can seal the series on home court on Friday, but Butler is determined to take it to a Game 7 decider on Sunday.

    "Besides the fact that anything is possible, we know what we are capable of," he said.

    "We know we can play some really good basketball, and we know that we are going to play some really good basketball.

    "It's going to have to start in this next game up in Boston. But I just think that we know that we can win."

    Butler left Game 3 early with a knee problem and has since been 7-of-32 from the field in consecutive losses.

    However, he was in no mood to make excuses for his poor showing.

    "It doesn't matter; if I'm out there, I've got to do better," he said. "I've got to find a way to help us win, and I haven't been doing that.

    "I'm fine. My knee is okay. I've just got to do better. It's no excuse."

    Team-mate Kyle Lowry struck a similarly defiant tone as he sought to issue a rallying call ahead of a crunch clash in Boston.

    "We have to continue to just keep working," Lowry said.

    "It's the first to four, so we have to go into a hostile environment, and it will be amped up, but I like what our team can do.

    "I like the opportunity that we have, and we've got to go in there and fight."

  • Jaylen Brown insists the Boston Celtics' defensive input is the 'key' after Game 5 win Jaylen Brown insists the Boston Celtics' defensive input is the 'key' after Game 5 win

    Boston Celtics star Jaylen Brown insisted his side will continue to win games with their defense after defeating the Miami Heat 93-80 on Wednesday.

    The Celtics recovered from a disappointing first half to take a 3-2 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals, setting up a chance to clinch the series and an NBA Finals berth on their home floor.

    Boston scored only 37 points in the first half, shooting 25 per cent from beyond the three-point arc, but only trailed by five points at the main interval.

    Brown asserted that their defence is critical in limiting the damage when they are not clicking on the offensive end, keeping the team in games.

    "Our defence is key," he said after the win. "Every night we come out and hang our hat on that side of the ball. It was great to have, even in a limited role, Marcus [Smart] and Rob [Williams III], to be able to be out there, because their presence on that side of the ball is felt.

    "Every night we give ourselves a chance with our defence. We didn't play great in the first half but we only gave up 42 points. Kept us in the game, we were down five, got settled in the second half and the game opened up and it was over from there.

    "Our defence is what continues to win us games and we've got to keep hanging our hat on that defensive side of the ball."

    In what has been a primarily defensive series, Game 5 was no different, with Miami generating a great amount of offensive impact from their defensive stops.

    Brown was a prominent figure in that regard, coughing up four of Boston's 10 turnovers for the half as the team shot 38.2 per cent from the floor.

    The 25-year-old took over in the second half, however, not turning the ball over once while scoring 19 points off eight-of-12 shooting.

    Post-game, he said there was little variation in approach, despite a dressing down in the first half from Celtics coach Ime Udoka.

    "We knew if we took care of the basketball, we would get some open opportunities and knock them down," Brown said. "Just continue to play basketball and be aggressive, that's why basketball is 48 minutes.

    "I think he [Udoka] was talking to the whole team. I wasn't the only person to have some turnovers but it is what it is. I'm going to keep being aggressive, keep getting into the paint and making them stop me.

    "Miami do a really good job of slapping down, reaching and grabbing and making it tough for you, so it's a little bit of both. I've got to do a better job for sure, but overall as a team, we've got to do a better job too."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.