Last night saw the return of two NBA players, one of them being Kyrie Irving. His absence this season was due to a lot of COVID complications. With his decision to not get vaccinated, the Brooklyn Nets were forced to keep him out of the lineup until further notice.
That exclusion from the lineup came to an end last night and we all got to see Uncle Drew make his 2021-2022 season debut in an exciting matchup against the Indiana Pacers. In his return, Irving finished with 22 points to go along with 4 assists. Running mates Kevin Durant (39 points) and James Harden (18 points, 6 assists) also contributed to lead the Nets to a tough come-from-behind victory 129-121.
“Just a lot of gratitude just to be present tonight with everyone,” Irving said per ESPN. “Just go out there and have fun doing what we love to do. It was a not-so-good first half for us, and we came in the locker room, and we knew that in order to build this identity that we want to have later in the season, we got to start now.”
On the other side of this matchup, the return of one of the league's most charismatic players - Lance Stephenson. Many will know Lance from his time at Indiana and more specifically, that playoff matchup between the Pacers and Heat where he famously blew in the ear of Lebron James. He spent his first initial four years in the league with the Pacers after being drafted in 2010. Between 2014 and 2019, Stephenson played on another 6 teams and even had a second stint with Indy.
He then went on to play one year in China and returned to the G-League where he played for the Grand Rapids Gold, as did recently signed Isaiah Thomas.
Stephenson received his call up to Indy for his 3rd stint and in his debut against the Brooklyn Nets, he absolutely showed why he's still an NBA player. He finished with 30 points including a 20 point first quarter alone. Although it was a loss, that debut for Stephenson was the most points by a Pacer in the first quarter in Franchise history. He's now also the only player in NBA history with 20 points coming off the bench in the first quarter.
"Working out 2 years, just waiting for this moment," said Lance in his half-time interview. "So happy to be here, it's at home. I'm just happy - we playing hard, we playing together and making the right passes."