PHILADELPHIA — Kyrie Irving’s homecoming season with the Nets is over, practically before it started.
The New Jersey-bred star has opted for arthroscopic shoulder surgery, a procedure that will end his truncated first campaign in Brooklyn after just 20 injury-riddled appearances.
“Kyrie has spent the last few days visiting with a specialist, and it’s been determined he’ll have arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder and will be out for the remainder of the season,” general manager Sean Marks said before Thursday’s game with the 76ers. “He’s obviously upset about this, and we are here to support him, support the process moving forward with him and the rehabilitation.”
Irving first suffered a shoulder impingement on Nov. 4, playing through pain until going on the shelf 10 days later. The Post reported on Dec. 4 that a procedure could be needed, and Irving eventually acknowledged as much the following month.
After eventually seeing a specialist in Arizona, Irving was presented with the choice of arthroscopic surgery or putting the problem off with a cortisone shot. He grudgingly opted to kick the can down the road with the shot, but it has since worn off. This time, he decided against another short-term fix.
“I think we look at our players’ long-term health as the No. 1 priority. Kyrie has been adamant like the rest of us that he’d take one cortisone shot and see how it goes,” Marks said. “We’re looking at the big picture here. We are not looking at the next two-to-three months, we are looking at the next two-to-three years.”
Marks refused to say whether there was a rotator cuff injury or any other damage other than the impingement, a vague catch-all term. He did claim Irving would be back for summer workouts, and certainly fit for next season, when Kevin Durant is also expected to debut.
Until then, the Nets will have to make do with just 20 games combined this season from the two superstars they handed $300 million worth of contracts to in June.
“Very disappointed, first of all, for Kyrie and obviously for the team. Tough blow. We’ll have to close ranks and guys are going to have to step up and guys will have opportunity,” coach Kenny Atkinson said.
“That’s the big thing. You wanted time to work things out, work on our continuity and obviously work on the chemistry of the team and how we’re going to use him. That’s the disappointing part: We’re not going to have that opportunity. We’ll have to start fresh next season and figure it out quickly. That’s the disappointing part.”
Irving had joined up with longtime friends Durant and DeAndre Jordan in picking Brooklyn this summer in free agency. But Durant, already recovering from Achilles surgery in June, told Bleacher Report’s Taylor Rooks he won’t be playing at all this season.
Without Irving sidelined, the Nets will continue to go with a backcourt of Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert.
Irving had made waves after a loss to Philadelphia when he stated the Nets needed more pieces to be contenders even upon Durant’s return. But after Irving went down with a knee injury this month, the Nets went 4-1 with a lineup of Dinwiddie, LeVert, Joe Harris, Taurean Prince and Jarrett Allen.
The Nets were back in Philadelphia again Thursday night opening the nominal second half of the season, and knew they would be doing it without their star guard.
“We’re very fortunate to have the group we have, With Caris and Spencer and Kyrie, there’s a lot of weapons out there,” Marks said. “Those guys, we’ve seen them play really well together. Obviously it hasn’t been as many games and they haven’t had the opportunity to do as much as we’d have liked. But at the end of the day this is a great opportunity for Spencer and Caris to continue this season.”