PHOENIX -- Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving says he will play Thursday night against the Phoenix Suns after missing Tuesday's loss to the San Antonio Spurs because of right calf soreness. Irving also missed a game last month because of the same issue, but he does not think the injury is serious.
"Trying to take care of my body for the long term," he said after Thursday's shootaround.
With Kevin Durant out for at least a few more weeks, Irving knows he needs to help the struggling Nets find a way to get back on track. After winning 18 of 20 with Durant, the Nets have dropped three straight without him and are in danger of dropping even lower in the Eastern Conference standings as they continue to face a string of playoff teams over the next month.
"It's tough for anybody, especially when your team is set up a certain type of way and pieces aren't in," Irving said of playing without Durant and the group having to take on more responsibilities. "So it's a figuring-out process, but it's not to lose your head, or lose your emotions. Just stay poised throughout this. It's inevitable that injuries happen at times. Obviously it's not ideal, but control what we can control."
The Nets face a Suns team that is also struggling, having lost 12 of its past 14 games. For his part, Irving is just trying to focus on what's in front of the group and try to keep them together as much as he can.
"The wins and losses are going to come and go, but big-picture thinking is really what gets you through," Irving said. "That's what's helping me, and just not trying to do it alone or feel like it's a solo act. This is a great team, this is a team sport, and you got to do everything to galvanize your teammates.
"I can be as great as I need to be, but if my teammates aren't there then it won't really matter. So my focus is really just on keeping the group together and making sure I'm doing a great job leading."