Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Like all teams around the NBA, the Nets have been mourning the loss of Kobe Bryant.
Star point guard Kyrie Irving discussed his relationship with Bryant after Wednesday's win over Detroit. He said that Bryant's death still feels like an 'open wound.'
Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, who has spoken extensively about the impact of Bryant's death on his team, said Wednesday that he thought it could bring his group closer.
"Guys really seemed like they bond more during times like this," the coach said.
After losing to the Knicks on Sunday - hours after the news of Bryant's death was reported - the Nets bounced back with a win over Detroit at home on Wednesday.
Irving returned to the court against Detroit after missing Sunday's game for personal reasons following the death of Bryant.
After the game, Atkinson was asked what he'd learned about Irving recently.
"He's so raw and honest. And not afraid to cry. He's just authentic," Atkinson said. "That's what I see. He's completely authentic. That can get us all in trouble sometimes, when you're really authentic, but I love that about him.
"I love that there's no, he doesn't hold back," Atkinson added. "He tells me what he feels. I deal with that better than guys that don't talk to you and aren't upfront. I love the personality."
The idea that Atkinson embraces Irving's personality seems like it could be significant for Brooklyn. Irving has, reportedly, clashed with members of his previous two organizations - Boston and Cleveland.
If Atkinson and Irving can maintain a solid working relationship in Brooklyn, you'd think that would bode well for the Nets' chances of contending for a title once Kevin Durant returns to the court.
Atkinson commended Irving for the way he approached practice on Tuesday, his first time back on the court with the team since Bryant's death.
"I knew he was locked in (at practice), which surprised the heck out of me. He was super competitive," Atkinson said of the point guard, who is averaging 26 points and 6 assists per game this season. "I thought we were going to have one of those days, understandably, where you're not getting much from him. So his preparation for the game was impressive."
Brooklyn is 20-26 heading into Friday's game against Chicago and in eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Coming into the season, it was reasonable to expect the Nets to be a top-four team in the conference - even without Durant. Brooklyn has, of course, dealt with several injuries this season, including significant ailments for both Irving and Caris LeVert.
The Nets will probably need both to remain healthy and productive to climb to within the top four or five spots in the conference come playoff time.