AP Photo/Ashley Landis
After leading the Brooklyn Nets to victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday, James Harden was asked about the impending return of point guard Kyrie Irving.
Harden said he expects the Nets to get a boost with the addition of Irving, who has yet to play this season and will only be available for road games because of New York’s vaccine mandates.
“We all know how special of a talent Kyrie is, and what he means to this organization and our team,” Harden told reporters. “So just to be around him, even if it’s only for road games, is gonna be huge for us. Obviously, it will make all our jobs a lot easier.”
The Nets originally refused to allow Irving to be a part-time player, but the organization softened its stance and allowed him to rejoin the team last week. He was placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols Dec. 18. Irving’s return to the court is not yet known because he will likely need some time to get into game-shape once he clears protocols.
The addition of Irving gives the Nets another All-Star-caliber talent on their deep squad. In 54 games last season, Irving averaged 26.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists.
In their first game in a week because of the recent COVID-19 outbreak, the Nets were playing with a depleted roster in Saturday’s 122-115 victory. Irving is among seven Brooklyn players who are in health and safety protocols. That includes star forward Kevin Durant, who has played like an MVP candidate this season and leads the league with 29.7 points per game.
Harden was playing in his first game since Dec. 10 after clearing protocols. He poured in 36 points to go with 10 rebounds and 10 assists to power the Nets to victory. Veteran guard Patty Mills added 34 points and connected on a Christmas Day-record eight three-pointers.
The Nets will return to action Monday against the Los Angeles Clippers.