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Kyrie Irving returns to Nets; Hawks without Trae Young

UniqueThis 5 Jan 12
5:11 PM ET

NEW YORK -- Kyrie Irving is back for the Brooklyn Nets, while the Atlanta Hawks are without Trae Young Sunday night.

Irving had been sidelined for 26 games with a right shoulder injury. But he recently returned to practice, and Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said the point guard would start Sunday night.

Three hours before tip-off, Irving was on the court shooting. He took jump shots and 3-pointers, whizzed around the court exercising his famous handles and practiced free throws.

By the looks of his pregame warm-up, bystanders wouldn't be able to guess that Irving hadn't played since mid-November because of an impingement. He released shots without a hitch, even though his shooting arm required a cortisone shot last month.

Irving said last week that surgery could still be a consideration if there was no improvement, but he took part in full workouts during the week, and Atkinson said Irving is ready.

Young has a left hamstring injury. Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said his second-year star received treatment Saturday but still felt soreness Sunday. Brandon Goodwin is expected to start in his place.

Young averages 28.9 points, and Irving 28.5. They are the current Eastern Conference leaders at guard in fan voting for the All-Star Game.

Without their All-Star point guard, the Nets have a 13-13 record. Spencer Dinwiddie, who moved from the sixth man slot to starting point guard in Irving's absence, started alongside Irving on Sunday. The Nets had never started the two together before. Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince and Joe Harris also started.

Typically, the Nets exercise extreme caution when it comes to bringing back injured players. Caris LeVert, who missed nearly seven weeks with a thumb injury, was a starter before his surgery in mid-November. Sunday marks his fourth game back from injury and he has yet to start.

"We treat every player individually," Atkinson said before Sunday's game. "I can just say, yes we are conservative, but we are about player care first and foremost."

Information from ESPN's Malika Andrews and The Associated Press was used in this report.