In October, Nets star Kyrie Irving said he was promised an exemption to New York City’s vaccine mandate (though never specified who told him that). But that exemption never came, keeping Irving from Brooklyn home games.
Then, Irving hoped to play road games. Instead, the Nets chose to sit him entirely.
The organization recently reversed course on road games. Cleared to return, Irving rejoined the team today.
Irving, via the Associated Press:
“I knew the consequences,” Irving said of his vaccination decision. “I wasn’t prepared for them, by no stretch of imagination coming into the season. I had my thought process on being able to be a full-time teammate and go out and have fun and provide a great brand of basketball out there. But unfortunately, it didn’t happen like that. Things happen for a reason and now we’re here and I’m grateful for this.”
“Not going to lie,” Irving said. “It’s been relatively tough to watch from the sideline. ... But if I get the opportunity to get on the court and play with some of my teammates, even if it’s just on the road for away games, I’m grateful for that opportunity.”
“When the team approached me, we had a good conversation,” Irving said. “They said, `We want you back,’ and I said, `Absolutely.’ This is always where I wanted to be. I wanted to be playing with the team in whatever capacity I can do that.”
“Being in this environment and playing with the best of the best is where I belong,” Irving said. “This is where I’ve worked my entire life to be. So, it was like riding a bike or just being at your first day of school again, just going back out there. And I missed it.”
The Nets haven’t committed to using Irving as a part-time player the rest of the season. They said they’re allowing him back because chemistry has been elusive amid so much upheaval, anyway. If player availability steadies – more likely with the NBA’s new protocols and increased natural immunity – Brooklyn could again send Irving home.
All along, Irving has sounded open to getting vaccinated. If the Nets reissue their all-in-or-all-out edict, Irving enjoying his time back with the team could push him toward getting vaccinated – and playing road and home games.