Ah ... the magic of Kyrie Irving in a contract year.
(Actually? One slight amendment. Let me try that again.)
Ah ... the magic of Kyrie Irving since the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in a contract year.
Because if you roster Irving? Since Thanksgiving, you have had zero complaints. Because Irving has only missed two games. And if you threw caution to the fantasy fates and drafted him, you're well aware that's all rostering Irving comes down to.
Irving's on the court more than Irving's not on the court. He's playing. Delivering. Even better? Irving's presenting as statistically and categorically balanced. As of this writing, Irving's turning in a top-20 campaign -- in points and roto.
Irving's line over the past month: 27.3 PPG, 5.2 REB, 5.0 AST, 4.0 3PT, 1.2 BLK + STL, 49.8 FG%, 90.0 FT%, 29.1 usage rate and a 62.9 TS%.
As of this writing, Irving's play has been as steadily reliable as a Timex. And for a player known for the operational consistency of an off-market Rolex purchased a few blocks north of Times Square, the game-to-game consistency of Irving's statistical quality since Thanksgiving has been something to behold.
And this goes without saying: In terms of sheer watchability (what is it with me and watches today?), the collaborative majesty, cadence, attack, and ruthless efficiency of the Irving/Kevin Durant partnership post-Thanksgiving is a rarified evening's entertainment.
Plus, Irving's production continues to subtly, incrementally improve! Over his first 15 games of the season, his 3-point production was decidedly tremulous (32.5 3FG%). But in December, Irving ironed out his 3-point attempts and elevated to a 41.9% clip.
The secret sauce stat that underscores this improvement best: the percentage of Irving's attempts that are 3-point attempts. For the season, 43.3% of Irving's field goal attempts are 3s. Last week, that percentage jumped up to 49.3%.
That subtle uptick displays that Irving is, as my daughter would say, "oh-so feeling it."
Now I'll try this again before I pivot.
Ah ... the magic of Kyrie Irving since approximately 3:30-4:30 p.m. ET on Nov. 20 in a contract year.
Durant is down for at least two weeks. Possibly more. Thankfully, relative to Durant's injury history, his latest MRI appears to be, in medical terms, one of those "could have been worse" MRIs.
Let's set the over/under on Durant's sabbatical at ... about a month. Give or take. (Sorry. My career as a bookmaker would be inordinately abbreviated.)
Between today and the annual horror that is Valentine's Day, the Nets play 17 games.
Dear reader, if there ever was a time to cast your fantasy fates to the wind and invest your fantasy capital in the roto crypto that is Kyrie Irving?
Right about now-ish would constitute said time.
Because here's the thing: As much as I've enjoyed balanced, present, consistent Kyrie Irving since that sketchy salmon lunch (Pacific Time) I had back on Nov. 20? Irving has yet to essay one of "those" games.
One of those "look at me" games. One of those "get ready to pay me games."
And Irving has been so consistent over the past six weeks, I'd nearly forgotten about his eruptive potential. His ability to author one of those "get out your checkbook, Ballmer" games.
As previously elucidated, this writer is a connoisseur of the game score. Irving's career-best game score: 53.8, the night of his 60-point game on Mar. 15, 2022. That arrived a week after his fourth-best game score, the 44.1 off a 50-point night. Total "those" games in Irving's 2021-22 season: four.
2020-21: five "those" games.
In 2019-20, Irving only played 20 games ... total. Four of them were "those" games.
The time is now. The table is set. The stars are aligned. The variables are aggregated.
It's time for a vintage Irving outburst of "those" games. But to get there? Irving's usage rate has to stay in the low-to-mid-30s. The 30.0 usage rate divide is what separates stars from superstars. It's a mandatory condition. Since late November, in his quest for balance, Irving has deferred just enough to kneecap his usage rate below 30.0 ... to 29.1.
It's getting oh-so close. Last week: 29.6.
But now, we have the perfect equation to get back about 30.0. And to give this writer a gift basket of "those" Kyrie Irving games.
Kyrie Irving minus Kevin Durant plus John Muir High's Jacque Vaughn plus contract year.
Here's the thing. We don't have a lot of historical game data to project what Irving will accomplish with this roster and Vaughn at the helm without Kevin Durant.
I don't know if you keep up with the ins and outs of the NBA news cycle. But the term I would use in terms of the level of effort, patience and luck required to enjoy six weeks of unfettered Irving-Durant basketball: "Cicada-Esque." As in, they seem to show up approximately once every 17 years, scare the hell out of homeowners nationwide, then vanish.
The equation is set. No Durant. The strategic genius of Jacque Vaughn. Contract year.
Ye Fantasy Fates: please do not let anyone add "getting Ben Simmons' offense above absolute zero" to said equation.
Please don't make the Nets think these next 17 games is about fixing Simmons' scoring. For the love of John Hollinger, do not make the next 17 games about that.
Fantasy Fates, if you've ever done a thing for me -- and heaven knows I've kept up my end of the bargain -- make these next 17 games about me. This guy. This guy who's been singing your praises for two decades.
Make these 17 games about delivering approximately four to six of Kyrie Irving's "I'm-almost-31-and-probably-playing-for-my-last-longterm-max-contract-and-would-prefer-it-to-not-transpire-in-Sacramento" games.
You know I don't ask for much.