Kyrie Irving is unavailable for the third straight game Wednesday as the Nets host the Hornets, but Brooklyn head coach Kenny Atkinson does not believe the star point guard's injury has long-term implications.
About two hours before the Nets (5-8) and Charlotte (6-8) tipped off at 7:30 p.m. ET from Barclays Center in New York, Atkinson met with reporters and fielded questions about Irving's right shoulder impingement.
After the issue kept Irving out of the Nets' past two games, last Saturday's 117-111 road win over the Chicago Bulls and Monday's 115-86 loss to the Indiana Pacers, Atkinson explained that the decision to keep the team's leading scorer and facilitator out was complicated.
"I don't think it's a long-term thing, but I wouldn't say we're being overcautious, Atkinson said. "I think he has a situation that's prevented him from playing. And like I said before, this is kind of like a collaborative thing -- we've talked about it, but this is the best course of action. Do I think it's like a long-term thing? Like I said, no. I don't think he could play through it right now, quite honestly. That's where we are. And we'll see where that goes. I know he's working on it with our performance team, working to get well.
"Like I keep saying, the shoulder's just a sensitive (injury) -- especially for a point guard, right? It's like a quarterback -- the way he shoots it, passing, the whole thing. I think he's working through it right now. And we've got to work through not having him, quite honestly. And I think we've been through down this road before. I think we have experience with last season, just having new guys in the rotation.
"I just think we need a little patience. I just think those guys'll produce. (Shooting guard) Dzanan Musa, (small forward) Taurean Prince, (power forward) Nic Claxton -- I think they need some, a little bit of time, to get their feet under them, accustomed to playing NBA minutes. But when once we have confidence, once they get a feel, we'll be fine."
Irving is the Nets' offensive catalyst with 28.5 points, 7.2 assists and 5.4 rebounds in 33.8 minutes on average through 11 games.
He had 27 points on 10-of-30 shooting (2 for 12 on three-pointers) in last Tuesday's 119-114 road loss to the Utah Jazz, where Atkinson said Irving suffered his injury.
Irving then decided to play through the pain in last Thursday's 101-93 road loss to the Denver Nuggets, when he saw his scoring dip at 17 points on 8-of-20 shooting (1 for 5 on three-pointers) despite picking up production elsewhere with nine assists and six rebounds.
"Did it in Utah -- I'm not going to describe the play -- definitely and then played through it, I think, the Denver game, I think he gutted that one out, quite honestly," Atkinson said. "And then we kind of reconvened after that and said, 'We have to get this thing right for -- think about the long term and his long-term health and our long-term plan as a team.'"
A timetable for Irving's return is unknown.
In his place, he gives more minutes to sixth man Spencer Dinwiddie, who started at point guard for the Nets' past two games.
Shooting guard Garrett Temple has also gotten more time in the lineup for Caris LeVert (right thumb sprain/surgery), who is out indefinitely.
"I'm not going to comment on whether he's going to practice (Thursday) or not," Atkinson said. "I sincerely doubt it. But I will say we have a protocol before a guy comes back to play. And usually, it's always, no, we're not going through Kyrie out there without seeing these kind of set standards kind of pass. So I think he understands that we're not at that point yet.