WASHINGTON – There’s no good time to lose Kevin Durant in a month, which is exactly what the Nets are facing. There are only bad times and worse times.
But now it’s at least just a bad time.
The Nets are in the midst of their longest concentration of road fights this season. Normally it would be a bad time to be without their star, but there has been nothing normal about this season or Kyrie Irving’s situation.
Irving is not eligible to play at home because he is unvaccinated and he made it painstakingly clear that he does not intend to change his mind and be vaccinated. But with the Nets only one game to a stretch of 11 out of 14 on the road, Irving will pretty much be available over the next month to help ease James Harden’s burden.
The Nets had 16-4 last season with the dynamic duo and no Durant. Can Brooklyn repeat that success from Wednesday in Washington?
“Yeah, it’s definitely helpful that we have a lot of road fights, useful that the All-Star break is in this stretch too,” Steve Nash said, adding that he does not want to pile too much on Irving’s shoulders. “I want Kyrie to have room to regain her rhythm and not overload it with, ‘Now that Kevin’s out, you have to take over and lead the league in scoring.’
“I want him to find his legs without feeling an extra burden. … He has not played for six months; and when we return to the NBA game with a little cadence and difficult training opportunities, we have to give him space to find his rhythm without feeling overwhelmed or too much pressure to do things too fast. “
But time is of the essence, for the Nets cannot waste Irving’s presence on this four-game tour followed by a back-to-back at home before heading out on a five-game trek.
Irving admits that he still finds his rhythm and that he can not copy Durant, for no one can.
“We just have to be ready to make adjustments on the go and do what’s necessary for guys to fill that role. You can never replace Kevin. It’s impossible. So we’re facing that reality right now and going on this road trip, Irving said. “We know that on any given night, James and I can go for the 30 piece.
“But we’re really looking forward to seeing a lot of guys come to the offensive end. So defensively, our communication needs to be really sharp because we do not have anyone who can clean up some of the mistakes at the back like Kevin.” “Now we just have to teach each other together. I’m still finding my benchmarks with the team, so I just take it one game at a time.”
When this stretch ends on February 12 in Miami, they will play three just without Irving – two home games squeezed around a trip to Garden, where he is also unable. Then they go into the All-Star break with at least a reasonable hope of getting Durant back after that.
But that stretch of three games will put an even greater burden on Harden, who has not looked like his MVP self. He is a minus-21 in his last 10 games, and admitted after a minus-18 performance against the Cavs that he needs to raise his game.
“I know myself that I have to be much better at both ends of the ball. You know, just a lot of mishaps, or whatever you want to call it, where I have to be better,” said Harden, who plays Wednesday despite a bank on Monday, and is fully aware of the importance of redeeming money.
“We have a huge opportunity – a huge opportunity, that’s what we see as being on the road. After this road trip, we’ve had two home games, and then we’re back on the road, so a huge opportunity for us [as a] group, to get together and run from some victories. “
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