Kyrie Irving played on Friday for the first time since Kobe Bryant tragically passed away.
He scored 54 points—the most he’s had since coming to the Nets—and afterward, he pointed to the sky and pounded his chest in an emotional moment.
“I hit a few shots, so I had to keep going and Kobe mentality, and Mamba mentality, keep going,” Irving said after the team’s win over the Bulls (h/t Zach Braziller of the New York Post).
“It’s still hard, everyone’s still grieving, but I think coming out here, knowing this is a place where we connected on a deep scale, it makes a lot of sense [being out there].”
Irving was 10-for-10, scoring 27 points in the first half. He finishes the game 19-of-23, falling just three points shy of his career-high (March 4, 2012 vs. Charlotte).
“Obviously, Kyrie, vintage performance,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “I can’t imagine a more efficient game on only 23 shots.”
The Nets have had an up-and-down season, spending much of it without Irving as the point guard dealt with shoulder woes. The 27-year-old has only played in 19 games this season.
Nets Remain In The Playoff Picture
Brooklyn hold a record of 21-26, which is currently good for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. Irving knows now is the time to turn it up and compete “We need it,” Irving said of making a playoff push. “We never every game we can get right now.”
The win over the Bulls was necessary since Chicago currently owns the ninth seed in the conference and is one of the main competitors to Brooklyn for a playoff spot. The Magic currently sit in the eighth seed, just a half-game behind the Nets.
Brooklyn’s upcoming schedule:
- At Wizards (2/1)
- Vs. Suns (2/3)
- Vs. Warriors (2/5)
- At Raptors (2/8)
- At Pacers (2/10)
The Rockets are reportedly listening to calls for Clint Capela, though the team would need to be wowed if it’s going to trade away the big man. Brooklyn has the pieces to put together a package for the big man, as we mentioned earlier today.
Imagine the Capela-Kyrie Irving-Kevin Durant trio next season for the Nets. Brooklyn would further enhance their status as a projected contender in the Eastern Conference and perhaps adding Capela would be the kind of help that Irving believes he needs.
A package of Jarrett Allen, Joe Harris, and Wilson Chandler would work for Clint Capela. Both Harris and Chandler are free agents after the season with the former expecting a major raise on current $7.7M salary. Long-term, the deal is essentially Allen-for-Capela and Brooklyn would surely like to have the more sure thing. Capela has proven himself, both in the regular season and in the playoffs. He would give the Nets a solid rim protector, fitting well with Irving now and Durant and Irving next year.
Capela has dealt with a nagging heal injury this season, though Brooklyn isn’t necessarily looking for him to be at his best this year. A potential trade for Capela is all about raising the high ceiling that comes next season when Kevin Durant makes his debut with the club.
READ NEXT: Timberwolves shopping Robert Covington