Kyrie Irving’s return to full-time status was supposed to give the Nets a shot in the arm. Instead it has hurt his shooting, right when they need him the most.
Brooklyn has gone just 2-4 since news broke on March 23 about New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate carve-out allowing the unvaccinated Irving to play at home. And it’s likely no coincidence that Irving’s ill-timed shooting funk lines up with his transition from part-timer to now playing every game, an adjustment he’s going to have to get used to quickly.
“Yeah it could be. I mean, I won’t rule it out,” Irving said. “But I’m not here to make any excuses for why it’s not going well for me on the offensive end. I think what I can control is just really my effort on the defensive end, and being there for my teammates and being there for my ballclub.”
Irving had 31 points and six assists in Saturday’s loss at Atlanta, but missed four of his first five shots and ended up 12 of 32. He also struggled to hold up defensively when switches found him matched up in the low block against bigger foes.
“I’ve got to do a better job down there,” Irving said. “And what a time to go into a shooting dip as well. I want to climb back out of that so we’re not putting so much pressure on [Kevin Durant] and it’s just better for our offense. So instead of starting off the game going 1-for-6, hopefully these next few games I’ll be able to get going in the first quarter, in the first half, and we can settle down a little bit.”
The news of New York’s mandate changes broke the night Irving poured in 43 points against Memphis. He hit 15 of 27 from the floor and 6 of 11 from deep against the Grizzlies, to finish that loss averaging 28.5 points on 49.4 percent shooting.
But Irving has dipped to 21.4 points on 36.2 percent the five games since. And he’s seen a 119.7 Offensive Rating fall to 112.4, and his Net Rating of 4.2 sink to minus-0.6.
“Kyrie’s adapting to playing every night, every other night now,” coach Steve Nash said, adding, “Maybe it [wasn’t] a classic from him, but he was still 7 of 14 from 3, 31 points, six assists so you can’t complain too much. The guy had to carry a big load with all the guards out of the lineup. He’ll be fine.”
Brooklyn’s Thursday game against the Bucks drew a 0.9 rating on TNT and 1.53 million viewers, up 72 percent in ratings and as much as 85 percent in viewership over the same day last year, according to Sports Media Watch.
The Nets’ pick acquired from Philadelphia in the James Harden trade is currently 23rd. It could end up No. 24, or possibly 22. They do have the option of shunting it to next year.
This story originally Appeared on NYPOST