Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images
NEW YORK — Much has been said over the years about Brooklyn guard Kyrie Irving, with some branding him as self-centered and egotistical. This year, when he refused to take the COVID-19 vaccine and could not play in home games for the Nets, he was criticized for that stance.
Yet, Irving has always professed his love for the game and the players who make it happen. With Brooklyn hoping to host a game in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament for the playoffs, Irving scored 17 fourth-quarter points Tuesday on his way to a game-high 42 points, helping his Nets defeat the visiting Houston Rockets, 118-105.
That victory did not come easily for the Nets. Houston’s young backcourt of Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green finished with 66 points. One person who noticed the dynamic scoring duo was Irving.
After the game, the No. 1 overall pick from the 2011 NBA draft replied to me about competing against Porter and Green, as well as what it means to have them reach out to him for advice on how to improve:
Those guys are ultra-talented. It seems as though me in my 11th year now, I have watched these guys since they were 14 and 15 years old, and I have grown with them. I have sent them messages of encouragement and messages of motivation to try and inspire them as they inspire me.
I look forward to the challenge of going against them for quite a few more years. That’s the fun part.
They made it here (NBA). This was the dream, and now it’s leaving a legacy where other guys are going to be following you the same way they are following me.
When we step onto the court, we understand that it is a competitive, warrior’s game. I try to have a positive outlook with these guys and tell them that I am always around. As a young fellow coming into the league, you kind of want to have that ego. You are only 19, 20 or 21 years old, and sometimes it can be a little intimidating to ask for guidance or help.
But those that want to know the information come to your doorstep, and they want to know the answers. I have a few answers to give them, and I just look forward to seeing them grow and mature and seeing where they end up in my seat 11 years from now.
Green has a similar style to Irving, with an ability to control the game on offense with outside shooting and a quick first step that allows him to attack the rim with ferocity. With his fifth consecutive 30-plus point performance, Green is the only Houston rookie to accomplish such a feat.
Green, who is only 20 years old, was asked about his on-court conversations with Irving after Tuesday’s game at Barclays Center.
“Me and Kyrie talked before when I was in high school or the G-league,” Green said postgame. “He gave me his number and was telling me that I could reach out to him whenever, and that he is always here for me. He told me, ‘To keep going, and keep killing it.’”
Houston travels to Toronto on Friday for its final road game of the season. That game will offer Green an opportunity to tie Hall of Fame guard Allen Iverson’s rookie record of six straight with at least 30 points.