Kyrie Irving is the NBA’s only part-time player. Although it might seem a bit too improbable for a part-time status to work for any other team or player, it could be what works best for Irving and the Brooklyn Nets.
Sean Marks and the Nets felt as if it were best to go back on the statement that the organization made on Oct. 12, barring Irving from being part of the team as anything other than a full-time participant.
In the two months following that decision, Irving remained unvaccinated, while Kevin Durant and James Harden’s workload steadily increased. So when Shams Charania reported on Dec. 13 that Irving was going to begin the process of rejoining the team, it wasn’t too big of a shock.
At the time, Brooklyn was playing with a shorthanded roster due to a COVID-19 outbreak. Irving himself entered the health and safety protocols on Dec. 14, but now that the world has witnessed his season debut with the Nets, his presence being a necessity makes a lot more sense.
Irving dropped 22 points, four assists, three rebounds, and three steals in a comeback 129-121 win for Brooklyn. For someone that hadn’t played in a game since mid-June, his performance was quite impressive.
Kyrie Irving being a part-time player for the Brooklyn Nets could be a … really good plan.
Those that have been consistently watching the Nets play this season were already aware of this, but Irving’s return to the court opens up several possibilities.
The Nets have spent time as the best team in the East, though as of right now, they’re in second place behind Chicago. Kevin Durant’s been on an MVP mission, and James Harden’s play has been up-and-down. Both players’ minutes sit atop the most in the league, and for an 82-game regular season, Brooklyn knew that wasn’t sustainable.
Yet, when you add Irving back into the lineup, even for away games only, the Nets are a far different team.
After Irving’s season debut in Indiana, Rob Mahoney of The Ringer, elaborated why the point guard was built for his new part-time role.
"“And yet because of the way Irving plays, it might not actually require a dramatic shift in the team’s identity. The Nets can make room for Irving without redesigning everything they do, and they can benefit from his presence without making him central to every action.”"
Although Brooklyn and Irving are doing something that seems absurd on the surface, the point guard can weave in and out of the lineup without causing a major disruption. Durant is the top dog on this roster and Irving’s ball-dominant game could interrupt that if he was on the court every night. This part-time designation allows KD to eat and may throw opponents off guard with two different lineup looks.
As Durant said, just by being on the court, Irving makes his teammates better. On top fo that, even though Irving missed the first half of the season, Harden couldn’t tell.
That’s why Mahoney added: “He doesn’t need sets, or rhythm, or continuity. He just needs the ball.”
Irving would be allowed to play in games at Barclays Center, as well at Madison Square Garden, Chase Center, and Scotiabank Arena if he became fully vaccinated. That’s up to him, though, and if he remains unvaccinated, he’ll continue to play in away games only.
Something that initially seemed bizarre could actually turn into something beneficial given we’ve seen what the roster is capable of achieving without him.