Kyrie Irving slated to play as Nets, Suns meet
The status of Kyrie Irving was cloudy until he firmed it up and said he will be on the floor when the Brooklyn Nets visit the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.
Irving is bothered by right calf soreness and was scratched prior to Tuesday’s 106-98 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the opener of a five-game road trip.
But after Thursday’s shootaround, Irving pronounced himself ready to play, saying not playing against the Spurs was partly due to him “trying to take care of my body for the long term.”
Brooklyn coach Jacque Vaughn was hopeful the injury wouldn’t be a long-term absence and it appears he got his way with Irving preparing to suit up against Phoenix, which has dropped 12 of its last 14 games.
Irving’s absence against the Spurs also marked the third straight game without Kevin Durant (knee). Brooklyn fell to 0-3 since the loss of Durant.
The Nets scored just 15 points in the first quarter against the Spurs and 17 in the third. They committed 21 turnovers and were a woeful 3 of 23 (13 percent) from 3-point range.
The setback without their two stars reminded some Brooklyn players of last season.
There was a point when both Durant and Irving were out of the lineup and the third star, James Harden, was dejected about the situation. Irving recently took a shot at the now-departed Harden and teammate Nic Claxton delivered his own after the loss to the Spurs.
“Last year … it was kind of a toxic environment,” Claxton told reporters. “We didn’t know if everybody wanted to be here at the time. This year, there’s no divide between everybody that’s out there. We’re going to figure it out.”
T.J. Warren scored a team-high 19 points in the loss to San Antonio.
The Suns are in a deep freefall that is tied to the absence of guard Devin Booker, who remains sidelined with a groin injury.
Booker has missed the last 11 games and the Suns are just 3-13 without their star this season.
Phoenix is opening a five-game homestand after being annihilated 136-106 by the host Memphis Grizzlies on Monday.
In addition to Booker, the Suns were without Chris Paul (hip), Cameron Payne (foot) and lost Josh Okogie (fractured nose) during the game. They were also without Cameron Johnson (knee), who was injured on Nov. 4, but he is set to make his return on Thursday.
“We’ve just got to regroup and go back home,” Phoenix coach Monty Williams said. “This has been a tough, tough stretch for us on a number of fronts. The wins and losses. The injuries. And we lose (Okogie) and he was playing his tail off. So you just pack it up, go home and get ready for the next one.”
Paul was ruled out for Thursday and will miss his sixth straight game. Payne, his backup, will sit out for the seventh straight game. Landry Shamet (foot) also miss the contest.
The loss to the Grizzlies was one of two blowouts on a four-game trip. Phoenix was routed 126-97 by the Denver Nuggets on Jan. 11.
Mikal Bridges scored 21 points and Deandre Ayton had 18 against Memphis. The Suns were outscored 68-41 in the second half.
Phoenix swept two meetings from the Nets last season. Booker averaged 32.5 points.
–Field Level Media