The Brooklyn Nets showed a brief compilation of highlights when Kevin Durant returned last week with the Phoenix Suns.
As for Kyrie Irving, he may not get the same reception Tuesday night when the Dallas Mavericks visit the Nets, as the guard and his former team are hardly concerned about celebrating the occasion.
Irving is returning to Brooklyn on the one-year anniversary of the deal that sent him to Dallas in exchange for Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, a 2029 first-round draft pick and two future second-round picks. The Mavericks own 24-24 record in games he has played for them, including a 118-102 win over the host Philadelphia 76ers on Monday.
Irving asked for a trade from the Nets, who signed him in July 2019. In four seasons with Brooklyn, he averaged 27.1 points but appeared in only 143 games (half of the Nets’ games in that time) due to injuries and other issues.
Like his former team, Irving’s current group is struggling of late, though Dallas is in better position in the playoff race.
The Mavericks, who are eighth in the Western Conference, own a 5-8 record since winning three straight Jan. 3-7. Dallas lost four of the six games Irving missed due to a sprained right thumb before he returned Monday and produced 23 points and eight assists in 35 minutes at Philadelphia.
The team Irving left is in worse shape, as the Nets are nine games under .500 and in 11th in the Eastern Conference. Both Dinwiddie and Finney-Smith are rumored to be on the trading block ahead of the Thursday deadline, as the Nets are 7-19 in their past 26 games.
After winning three of the previous four, Brooklyn was held under 100 points for the fifth time this season and shot less than 40 percent for the seventh time (38.2 percent).
Cam Thomas led the Nets with 18 points but was a woeful 4 of 21 from the field. Nic Claxton and Royce O’Neale added 15 apiece, but the Nets played with essentially seven players after Lonnie Walker IV tweaked his left hamstring in the first half. Subsequently, they were torched inside, getting outscored 72-38 in the paint and outrebounded 60-38.
The Nets rested Ben Simmons for the second time since he returned from missing 38 games with a back injury. He is expected to be available on Tuesday, good news for Brooklyn considering the team scored 147 and 136 points in his first two games.
Finney-Smith is expected to miss his fifth straight contest with a sprained left ankle, and the Nets also could be without Cameron Johnson, who played just one minute in the fourth quarter against Golden State due to a sore adductor, and Walker.
Dallas has won seven of the teams’ past eight meetings, though each of the past six contests was decided by five points or fewer. Luka Doncic scored 49 points and hit the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 26 seconds left to lead the Mavericks to a 125-120 win over the visiting Nets on Oct. 27.