Kyrie Irving returns to Nets lineup, expected to play 'big chunk' in season debut vs Pacers

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Uncle Drew is making his long-awaited season debut. Kyrie Irving will be in the lineup for the Nets road game Wednesday night against the Indianapolis Pacers.

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While Nets fans may be rejoicing about getting their point guard back, head coach Steve Nash said Irving won't be in the starting lineup tonight but expects him to play a 'big chunk' of the game.

“I don’t think it’s where he can play 38, but I think he can play a big chunk of the game. He’s had three or four full-court days with five-on-five. I think he’s capable of playing extended minutes but not necessarily his accustomed high 30s,” said Steve Nash, adding that Irving will be open to any capacity the team wants to use him in.

“Yeah, (we’re open to) anything. We could put him on the bench. We could put him on the starting lineup. I think he’s open to either and it’s just a matter of us thinking short-term, middle-term and long-term and what suits our group.”

Outside of Irving participating in the Nets training camp, this will be his first action on the court since Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against eventual champions the Milwaukee Bucks.

Irving, who has still not been vaccinated for COVID-19, originally was barred from the team due to NYC's COVID vaccine mandates until the Nets reversed their decision last month and allowed him to rejoin as a part-time player. Irving is only allowed to play during the teams' road games--outside of Los Angeles and San Fransisco who also has vaccine mandates. When this decision was made, Nash was asked why the franchise decided to backtrack on their inital decision.

"When we realized how much stuff was thrown at us, COVID, COVID got dicey. We ended up having 13 players who had COVID. We were going around signing a bunch of 10-days when we have a guy who can play for us, so what's the difference between a 10-day and a guy -- those are part-time players too."

Both James Harden and Kevin Durant are excited to get their running mate back, making this the first time the 'big 3' are playing together since Game 1 of the Nets-Bucks series.

The Nets hope Irving's return can give a needed lift to a team that comes into Wednesday's contest having dropped three straight games.

Nash knows that it will take a little time for Irving to get comfortable again with some of the new wrinkles within the Nets system, but he is confident the 29-year-old will be able to find his rhythm quickly.

"It might take a little bit but Kyrie knows what he's doing," Nash said. "He's been with us and he also can adapt to situations and so we haven't had a ton of time to really give him the tutorials, but that's something that we are happy to do on the fly as well. But more importantly, try to feel a sense of cohesion with his teammates, get comfortable playing the game, before we overload him with a ton of thoughts. I think he'll be fine."

Follow Jasper Jones on Twitter: @jonesj2342

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