When will Kyrie Irving return from suspension? Networks do not say.


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LOS ANGELES — Kyrie Irving’s first checkpoint came and went on Sunday, and the Brooklyn Nets hardly seemed in a rush to get their polarized All-Star guard back on the court.

irving, which was discontinued this month For at least five games after he refused to disavow an antisemitic film he shared on his social media accounts, he missed his sixth straight game, a 116-103 road loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Nets declined to provide details of Irving’s denial: Coach Jack Vaughn said Saturday he has “absolutely no update or schedule,” while team owner Joe Tsai told the New York Post That Irving, who apologized on Instagram after his comment, still had to “show people sorry.”

When the Nets fired Irving because they concluded he was “currently unfit to be associated” with the organization, they gave themselves an extended opportunity to see how the team could function without him. Early answer: Mostly quietly, but still anxious.

LeBron James: Kyrie Irving should be able to play

Brooklyn went 4-2 without Irving thanks to a more active defense, better ball movement, and some sound turnover tweaks from Vaughn, who then stepped in. Nets parted ways with Steve Nash After 2-5 start. However, Sunday’s loss to the Lakers was a reminder that the ongoing health questions about Ben Simmons, Joe Harris and Seth Curry leave the Nets overly dependent on Kevin Durant to carry what has been an unremarkable offense.

Through Irving’s eight games, Brooklyn ranked 20th in offense, 27th in defense and 27th in point difference. Since his suspension, the Nets have ranked 11th on offense, first on defense and first in point difference, albeit against a somewhat poor schedule and in a small sample size. But a team that had been lethargic and aimless at the start of the season has grown more focused and united, thus dismissing the notion that the front office should trade Durant and demolish the roster.

The mentality behind the defense [has changed]“You see everyone involved in every game. There aren’t a lot of plays where a shot is contested, we don’t run back, or we don’t get out. You see the plays over and over as we cover for each other.”

Vaughn, 47, deserves credit for his role in guiding the shift. Nash, a former star, was hired to cater to the Brooklyn stars. By contrast, Vaughn has sought to use his varied experiences as a college student and an NBA backup to make connections up and down the roster.

The first major test for the new coach was how to deal with Simmons, who had been a shell of himself this season. Nash started Simmons and played heavy minutes, even when it became apparent that the three-time All-Star was badly hurting Brooklyn’s spacing and running into constant foul trouble. In a smart and bold move, Vaughn dumped Simmons, a former first pick who earned $35.4 million this season, to the bench and cut his playing time.

This decision actually took the pressure off Simmons, who now often serves as a flanking center with four bowlers in small-ball formations. This group sacrifices size, but it enables Simmons to focus on what he does well: passing, defending multiple positions, and making efforts. Most importantly, a little bit of Simmons has translated into more space for Durant — who averages 30.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game — and the rookie in action.

Brooklyn also benefited from larger contributions from Harris and Curry, two passionate shooting guards who helped pick up the slack after ankle injuries. Harris played Durant for many years, and Curry gave the net a traditional sixth man capable of starting offense and scoring in combinations. Little-known guard Edmond Sumner was another pleasant surprise.

“We’ve got to be one of those teams that on any given night, somebody else has to step up and give us huge plays,” Durant said. “Obviously we are missing out [Kyrie] So we’re going to look for where those points are coming from and the guys do that as a group.”

The Nets couldn’t find that secondary source of offensive juice against the Lakers, as Durant handled the defensive pressure for most of the night and his teammates shot 5-for-24 (20.8 percent) from depth. Simmons was a late scraper with a sore knee, Curry rested the second night from back-to-back and Nick Claxton suffered an eye injury. Those absences stretched deep into the net past the breaking point, and the slender forward line had no answers for Anthony Davis, who finished the season with 37 points and 18 rebounds.

So this Brooklyn weekend in Los Angeles revealed both sides of Irving’s dilemma. When things go well, as in Saturday’s convincing win, it’s possible to imagine touchdowns in a playoff game without Irving. During bad times, like in Sunday’s abbreviated loss, Durant looks like a superstar stripped of his boyfriend and Brooklyn seems too worn-out to be taken seriously.

The case for simply moving from Irving, who will be a free agent next summer, is clear: He missed most of last season because he refused to be vaccinated, then underperformed in the playoffs last year and sought a deal over the summer. Tsai he said last week that he wanted to “bring joy back to basketball”, an impossible goal unless Irving’s constant distractions could be eliminated.

Buckner: Kyrie Irving kindled a flame. The NBA watched, from top to bottom, the spread of the fire.

But giving up, trading or sending Irving back home without crafting a better replacement would further complicate the Nets’ relationship with Durant, who said last week he wished the organization had “continued to play basketball and kept quiet” during the latest controversy. Brooklyn ran into a similar problem last season The ordeal of Irving’s vaccination He eventually relented by allowing him to return on a part-time basis. Irving loyalist Durant made it clear on Saturday that he expects his partner to be back again.

His spirits [are] Durant said. “He’s looking forward to playing again. You know [Kyrie]He’s a player. He loves to play. Hopefully, all of these things are over and we can get through it and bring him back to Earth soon.”

Tsai sat on the court Saturday, standing and cheering throughout the fourth quarter. The fun scene was far from it Irving’s recent spats with the mediaHowever, General Manager Sean Marks’ uneasy press conference came after Irving’s comments and Tsai’s Twitter posts about Irving. Brooklyn, for once, looked like a regular team rather than a continuous PR disaster.

Unfortunately, the unresolved tension over Irving’s fate has not gone anywhere, even if he is temporarily buried below the surface. The Nets appear to be damned if they welcome Irving back and damned if they don’t, which may help explain why their reign has taken so long.

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