‘When we get our full team back, we’re going to be good’

Kyrie Irving cropped 2/26/22

Kyrie Irving cropped 2/26/22

If the Nets were able to pull off a 126-123 win Saturday at the defending-champion Milwaukee Bucks, what would an added reinforcement of Kevin Durant (left knee, MCL sprain), Ben Simmons (return to competition reconditioning) and Joe Harris (left ankle surgery) bring?

Shorthanded Brooklyn’s players, including Kyrie Irving, could not help but look forward to one of — if not all — the reinforcements making a near-future return from injury.

“It’s the collection of guys we have in that locker room, honestly,” Irving, who could soon be cleared to play in home games, told ABC sideline reporter Lisa Salters at Fiserv Forum. “They keep me in shape, they keep pushing me, they keep me motivated. And it’s not an ideal season for us, but we’ve just got to keep pushing through all those barriers and those circumstances that are at hand.

“You can’t control them, but when we get our full team back, we’re going to be good.”

In the meantime, Irving headlined a team effort by the Nets (32-29) against the Bucks (36-25) with a game- and season-high 38 points on 14-of-26 shooting while adding five rebounds and five assists over 39 minutes. What does Irving’s presence change for players like Seth Curry?

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“Everything,” said Curry, who dropped 19 points on 6-of-11 shooting — including a 4-for-8 clip from long range — in 29 minutes. “Obviously, just less attention on me, offensively. It was easier to manage the offense, try to find ways to put him in space and my job is to be aggressive when the ball is coming to me, so he can do his thing. But I’m trying to get used to playing with him and what he likes to get his shots. Everybody out there’s playing with each other. So it’s a work in progress, but we’ve got to win games, at the same time.”

Goran Dragic made his Nets debut and immediately felt Irving’s impact. He also thought forward to what Durant, who could return this week, would further bring.

“When you watch Kyrie, it feels like he’s in the video games,” Dragic said. “It’s just crazy how he moves and how he’s making those tough shots. We were just talking on the bench — we took away a win for us, but when we get KD back and Simmons and those guys, those guys can score the ball, they can defend. So it’s a little different team. But every game counts, so we need to get as much as possible wins until those guys come back.”

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Until the Nets’ injuries recover and a formal change is made to Irving’s part-time status, Brooklyn continues on into Monday’s 7:30 p.m. game against the Toronto Raptors. Irving, though, is not hiding his optimism.

“More than hopeful,” he said. “Just remaining humble, just staying in the moment and just making sure that we stay collectively, as a group, as strong as we can — and that, right there, is the best recipe.”

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