Kyrie Irving sits out Nets' loss to Spurs with sore calf

SAN ANTONIO -- Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving did not play in Tuesday's 106-98 loss to the San Antonio Spurs because of right calf soreness.

Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said he does not believe the injury is serious and that he is hopeful Irving will be able to play in Thursday's game against the Phoenix Suns. Vaughn said Irving will not need an MRI.

"Just reported a little tightness," Vaughn said before the game. "It's essentially just day to day. We'll check on him [Wednesday], and hopefully this is short-term."

Seth Curry started in Irving's place, and scored 16 points with seven rebounds and two assists.

Irving's absence looms larger for the Nets right now, given that they continue to play without star forward Kevin Durant, who is expected to be out several more weeks because of a sprained MCL in his right knee. Durant did not accompany the Nets on this road trip as he continues his rehab.

"They all have to, cliche, pick up their games and rise to the level," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said before the game. "But really what it does, it's just like when you have someone out that's hurt, it narrows the margin. You have a narrow margin for error. You can't turn it over as much. Your transition defense has to be better ... defense has to pick up. Team defense has to be more aware.

"The ball probably has to move more because everybody's going to participate. Everybody's got to score. They run the same offense, except with Kevin it's an offense by itself."

The good news for the Nets is that Ben Simmons returned Tuesday after missing Sunday's loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder because of back soreness. He had a triple-double with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists.

Vaughn said pregame that Simmons' back was feeling good and that his job description for Simmons, and the rest of the team, wouldn't change despite the fact that they are playing without Irving and Durant.

"You don't have to do any more than what's been asked of you from day one, and that fits for [Simmons] as well," Vaughn said. "For him to push the pace, for him to rebound the basketball on both ends of the floor, for him to get his teammates involved and for him to give every ounce of energy that he has. That he is depleted by the end of the night because he played so hard. If he does that, we'll be in good shape."

After the disappointing loss, Vaughn held to the message that he didn't want his team to have any excuses, no matter who may or may not be on the floor. Nets center Nic Claxton remains confident that the group will be able to turn things around, while taking a shot at some of his teammates from last season.

"Last year ... it was kind of a toxic environment," Claxton said. "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. We just got to figure out how to play with each other. Without having KD/Kyrie on the court, it's different lineups, but we'll figure it out."

It was on the same long road trip last year, while playing without Durant, who was rehabbing from an MCL injury in his right knee, that former Nets guard James Harden pushed his way out of Brooklyn and into a deal with the Philadelphia 76ers that brought Simmons to the Nets.

For his part, Simmons is confident his new team will be able to get things back on track soon.

"We got the guys to do it and we've seen that," Simmons said after the game. "I think guys got to stay poised and stay together and that's what it is. We can't expect, we can't rely on Kev and Ky every night. Everyone has to step up and do their job, regardless of who's going to be starting or who's playing."