After months of public debate, internal machinations and leaguewide speculation, Kyrie Irving finally made his inaugural appearance of the season Wednesday night in the Brooklyn Nets' 129-121 win at the Indiana Pacers. Unvaccinated against COVID-19, in a league being ravaged by a new wave of infections, he got clearance from his team to suit up -- and the early returns were promising for Brooklyn. In the words of Nets coach Steve Nash, "He looks like himself."
With Irving's addition to Brooklyn's active roster, a presumptive preseason favorite now has its star cluster intact, a rarity for a Nets squad whose tantalizing potential has yet to be realized, much less healthy, over the past year.
"I've had a lot of debuts, but nothing comes close to this one," Irving said.
Irving's night began with a layer of rust. Working off a pick-and-roll set called from the sideline on the game's first possession -- "a welcome back gift," according to Nash -- Irving fired a midrange jumper that grazed the front rim. For his second field goal attempt, Irving unleashed a nasty crossover to find a large swath of space, only to have his shot swatted away by Pacers center Myles Turner.