Kevin Durant on Kyrie Irving's Nets Return: 'Basketball Is Happy to Have Him Back'

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 6, 2022

Brooklyn Nets' Kyrie Irving reacts after hitting a shot during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers, Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
AP Photo/Darron Cummings

Kyrie Irving made his season debut Wednesday during the Brooklyn Nets' 129-121 victory over the Indiana Pacers, and Kevin Durant was happy to have his teammate back on the floor.

"The game of basketball is happy to have him back," Durant told reporters after the win.

It appeared as if Irving's return would come during a loss for the Nets as they fell behind by 13 points at halftime and struggled to stop Lance Stephenson, who finished with 30 points.

However, the visitors came charging back in the second half and took over in the fourth quarter to clinch the win. Irving finished with 22 points, four assists, three rebounds and three steals, while Durant was dominant behind 39 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.

Even though James Harden was relatively quiet by his elevated standards with 18 points and six dimes, all three of them being on the floor together was a reminder of just how dangerous this team can be come playoff time.

Yet Irving's availability figures to be a primary talking point as the postseason eventually approaches.

He is not allowed to play in home games due to local rules because he remains unvaccinated against COVID-19, and the Nets initially said they would not permit him to play in road games either as a part-time participant.

That changed, though, as the attrition of the season became a concern.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Ohm Youngmisuk reported Dec. 17 that "unfolding circumstances" such as injuries and players being sidelined by health and safety protocols led to a reversal of the team's stance.

Irving ended up in health and safety protocols as well but was cleared to play in Wednesday's victory.

The next road game for the Nets is Monday against the Portland Trail Blazers following home games against the Milwaukee Bucks and San Antonio Spurs on Friday and Sunday.