Kyrie Irving is back for the 8-10 Brooklyn Nets. Ben Simmons is becoming a contributor. Joe Harris and Seth Curry have also returned. Kevin Durant is smiling again. The Brooklyn Nets may not be a completely whole and unified team just yet, but they are making strides.
Irving was in the Nets’ lineup on Sunday at the Barclays Center, a 127-115 win for his team after missing eight games serving a team-imposed suspension which began Nov. 3 for posting a documentary film to one of his social media accounts that contained anti-Semetic content.
“It felt good. Felt good,” said Irving, who was required to complete a series of six mandated steps, including issuing a formal apology, before having his suspension lifted.
“Just missed my teammates, missed the coaching staff. Just getting prepared with them in the morning…and just carrying it over into the game.”
Irving smartly avoided answering non-basketball related questions, one specifically regarding the 200-plus members of the Israel United In Christ that gathered outside the Barclays Center to show support for Irving. On its website, the IUIC describes itself as a “non-violent bible based movement.” Dressed in purple and gold shirts and jackets, the group resembled but has no affiliation with the fraternal organization Omega Psi Phi, whose colors are also purple and gold.
“I think that’s a conversation for another day,” responded Irving when asked about IUIC’s presence on Sunday. “I’m just here to focus on the game.” Irving scored 14 points with five rebounds in 26 minutes. Irving was back on the court with the Nets on Tuesday versus the Philadelphia 76ers on the road but this time the focus was on Ben Simmons. The forward played his first game in Philadelphia against his former team since being traded to the Nets last February in a deal that sent James Harden to the Sixers.
Simmons had a steady game and wasn’t rattled by the Philadelphia crowd, leading the Nets in assists (7) and rebounds (11 and scoring 11 points), but it came in a loss. Irving paced the Nets with 23 points. The 76ers, playing without starters Joel Embiid, Harden and Tyrese Maxey, who were all out with injuries, defeated the Nets 115-106.
“I thought it was going to be louder,” said Simmons, who is gradually looking like the player who was a three-time NBA All-Star (2019, 2020 and 2021) with the Sixers. He scored a season-high 22 points on Sunday versus the Grizzlies.
The Nets were in Toronto last night (Wednesday) to face the Raptors and will be in Indiana tomorrow to play the Pacers. They will have three straight games at home hosting the Portland Trailblazers on Sunday, the Orlando Magic on Monday and the Washington Wizards on Wednesday.