Kyrie Irving Says Late-Season 'Pressure' Is New Experience After Nets' Play-In Berth

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVApril 5, 2022

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) dribbles up court during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks Saturday, April 2, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.)
AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.

As the Brooklyn Nets try to extract themselves from the dreaded 9-10 line in the play-in, Kyrie Irving says the pressure has never been higher. 

"I've never been in a situation like this where late in the season all these games matter," Irving told reporters Tuesday. "Usually you're just trying to fine-tune your game, work on details, get some rest. But I've been playing 40 minutes [at] the end of the season, it's the first probably few times in my career, even when I think about my first three years in Cleveland we were not winning as many games towards the end of the season, there still wasn't as much pressure."

The Nets are currently the No. 10 seed in the Eastern Conference and would have to win two games to capture the No. 8 seed if the season ended today. They are only one game behind the Hawks, who currently sit at No. 8, and would only have to win one play-in game if they were able to leapfrog Atlanta in the final week of the regular season. 

Of course, it would be fair to note much of the pressure Irving is feeling is self-inflicted. Irving has suited up in only 25 games this season over his refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine, which kept him away from the team from October to January and then restricted him to road games until late last month.

If Irving would have been vaccinated and available for those games, it's highly unlikely the Nets would have been in the precarious position they currently face. It's also possible James Harden is still on the roster, given some of Harden's frustrations came as a result of being forced to carry Brooklyn without Irving and Kevin Durant.

That said, it's not as if the Nets have been world-beaters when Irving has been on the floor. They are just 10-15 in games Irving has played this season.

Expected to be a title-favorite juggernaut heading into the campaign, these Nets have largely folded under the weight of outside and internal expectations. Time is running out for them to right the ship.