Kyrie Irving on return from shoulder injury: ‘I really missed the game of basketball’

After 26 games without Kyrie Irving — and no idea of when he was expected to return until he provided some insight three days ago — Brooklyn Nets fans got to see the superstar point guard go to town against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday night.

Coach Kenny Atkinson didn't rush Irving back to his full workload, though the Nets didn't need Irving to play more than the 20 minutes he logged in a 108-86 win at Barclays Center.

Irving scored 21 points in his return to game action while shooting a career-best 90.9% from the floor (10-for-11). When Michael Grady of YES Network asked Irving how he put together the performance after such a long layoff, Irving laughed after he heard the numbers.

"I mean, I just work on my game diligently, but, you know, you have nights like this," Irving said. "But coming back, my teammates, having the support of them, and like I said having my family here, is always a great joy. I love the game man. I missed it so much."

“I really missed the game of basketball. I’m grateful to be out here.”

After missing the last 26 games, @KyrieIrving dropped 21 points in his return, a 108-86 victory for the Nets.#NETSonYESpic.twitter.com/5pfK5jzukS

The Nets have now won two in a row after a season-long seven-game losing streak. Brooklyn is 18-20 and seventh in the Eastern Conference, just a half-game ahead of the Orlando Magic and 5½ ahead of the Washington Wizards in 12th place.

Irving and Brooklyn are back in action on Tuesday when they host the Utah Jazz in the first of a back-to-back in which Irving says he expects to play games.

Nets Wire is part of the USA TODAY Sports Media Group.

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