NEW YORK — Kyrie Irving oozed swagger when he walked onto the court during the starting lineup announcement on Wednesday. After all, Irving viewed this — the Brooklyn Nets‘ regular-season opener — as a sort of homecoming. To mark the occasion, he dazzled offensively and broke four records.
The guard finished with 50 points. When he hit 32 points, he set a record for points scored in a Nets’ NBA debut. The previous mark was 30 by D’Angelo Russell in 2017. When he hit 48 points, he set a record for points scored in a debut for any NBA team. The previous record of 47 points was set by Kiki Vandeweghe in 1984.
Then he hit 50. There had been only six 50-point games in Nets’ franchise history, and the most recent one was recorded in 2012 by Deron Williams. The most recent player with a 50-point opener was Anthony Davis, and before Davis, it was Michael Jordan.
“The job wasn’t done,” Irving said after the game. “So that 50 just goes into just another few numbers that — it holds value, but not really when you don’t get a win.”
Even as the Nets began to spiral toward an 0-1 record, Irving got a warm reception from fans. He was introduced last in the starting lineup — a basketball honor reserved for a team’s long-tenured star. He was given a corner locker in the Nets’ locker room — another league-wide symbol of stature.
The Barclays Center crowd erupted when Irving sank his first basket. Every time he charged toward the basket after that, fans let out an audible “ooh” or gasp. Irving appeared determined to dazzle, throwing somewhat haphazard and unnecessary behind-the-back passes minutes into the first quarter.
At the end of the first half, Irving had 25 points, but just three assists and the Nets trailed by 12 points. At halftime, coach Kenny Atkinson pointed out to the team that collectively, they only had eight assists. Irving seemed to be looking to pass to his teammates more in the third quarter.
“We have a phrase that we use, ‘play with the pass,'” Atkinson said. “I do think that is guys not playing together and that is part of it.”
The game would wind up going to overtime, but Atkinson maintains that the Nets’ early deficit – and expelling too much energy digging themselves out of that hole — is what ended up costing Brooklyn the game.
“This is one game,” Irving said. “One of 82. So don’t need to get nervous. Just keep knocking them down.”