Kyrie Irving insists he has no interest in individual accolades anymore as he looks to deliver Championship success to Brooklyn after starring in the Nets' opening night win against the Golden State Warriors.
The six-time All-Star and former NBA champion with the Cleveland Cavaliers put up a game-high 26 points to go alongside four rebounds and four assists in his first game since February 1 on Tuesday night.
It marked his first regular-season appearance alongside Kevin Durant, who sat out the entire 2019-20 campaign after signing for the Nets on the back of rupturing his Achilles tendon with the Warriors in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors.
Play the NBA Fantasy game and go up against the Sky Sports Heat Check crew - or create a league of your own
The arrival of both in quick succession last year sparked intrigue as to how their friendship would translate on-court, with long-awaited first glimpses across preseason and on Tuesday night having been as promising as the Nets could have hoped.
For Irving, who admitted post-game to seeking individual feats earlier on in his career, he only has his mind on one thing this season.
"It's been a long journey to get here and to be able to master this craft and to learn it's not just about hero basketball, it's about how great the team is and I think I got caught up in that in my career a few times of just trying to play hero basketball where the team success is really going to dictate how great you are as an individual and how great you play that role," he told reporters.
"Being in this present moment I'm enjoying that and embracing it, not really doing too much talking, it's all about action, let's go out there and throw the ball in the air and see who is the best of the best.
Get NBA news on your phone
Want the latest NBA news, features and highlights on your phone? Find out more
"I'm ready to do that every night with a great team alongside me that gives me confidence. We look forward to the challenge of letting our game do the talking."
Irving went 10 of 16 from the field and four of seven on three-pointers on the night, out-dueling Warriors talisman Steph Curry, who finished with 20 points, four rebounds and 10 assists having been limited last season due to injury.
"I think it's just right time, right situation, right environment," Irving continued. "To explain that, as a young player you think scoring a bunch of points and getting individual accolades are great and I was definitely going after those things.
"Now I really don't care for any of those individual accolades or goals, it really doesn't bother me. I know I'm validated culturally, that's all that matters. I don't need All-NBA, MVP, I just want a Championship with a great team that I can look back on in history saying 'we did it our way and had fun doing it'."
Durant capped his regular-season debut for Brooklyn with 22 points, five rebounds and three assists, with neither he or Irving being required on the floor in the fourth quarter as the Nets boasted a 28-point lead after three periods.
Describing what it was like to face his old Golden State team-mate, Curry said: "Awful."
"With KD out there, the way that he looked, he looked all the way healthy, confident in his body, so it was good to see obviously from a health standpoint. That means a lot to come off an injury like that."