Brooklyn Nets All-Star guard Kyrie Irving recently returned from an extended stay on the sideline due to a nagging shoulder injury, but a new issue kept him out of Monday’s matinee against the Philadelphia 76ers. Irving missed the game due to a tight hamstring, and though it doesn’t seem to be especially serious, the Nets decided to err on the side of caution considering the fact that they inked Irving to a multi-year deal over the offseason. 

“Just came in with some tightness. We’ll play it cautious. Don’t want to lose in long term, so that’s the plan,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said of Irving, via the New York Post. “We looked at him [Sunday]. We knew there were some issues and then we tested it again [Monday] morning and decided collectively to not play … There’s hamstring tightness. I don’t think you want tightness to go to a strain or a pull. Can go down the line there. So I think with these things you have to go on the side of caution.”

It remains to be seen whether or not this latest injury issue will cause Irving to miss any further action, but the Nets don’t play again until Thursday night when they host LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, so he has a couple days to rest his hamstring, at least. 

Irving has received plenty of criticism recently, due largely to how his tenure with the Boston Celtics ended as well as the shaky start that he and the Nets have had to the season. At this point, though, Irving is accustomed to being criticized and talked about, and he used the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday to make an interesting comparison. 

“My name was given to me by my grandfather and I’m very grateful but it’s in a lot of people’s mouths … I’ve earned that because of how great I am as a player,” Irving said. “When I was out for those seven weeks and not saying anything people are still saying things about me. It’s inevitable. They crucified Martin Luther King for speaking about peace and social integration. You can go back to historical leaders and great people in society that do great things, and they’re still going to talk s— about them. It is what it is. 

“I know what I stand for. I’m a great family man. I have great values, core values. This basketball stuff is a game at the end of the day. It’s dramatized, it’s entertainment for people and fans. I’m a human being at the end of the day. I’m going to keep reiterating that, but my job is making sure my teammate are great and our organization is at a championship level.”

The Nets have hovered around .500 for a large chunk of the season to this point, but they had hoped that the return of Irving earlier this month after a 26-game absence from his shoulder injury would help the team begin to get some momentum. Instead, the opposite has occurred. Irving didn’t play on Monday, but since he has returned to the active lineup, the Nets have gone just 1-4, with their only win coming against the lowly Hawks. The loss to the Sixers on Monday was the fourth straight for the Nets, who have now gone just 2-8 over their last 10 games. They now sit six games below .500 on the season, and have a tenuous grasp on the final playoff spot in the East.   


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