Kyrie Irving will return to Nets soon, will only play road games
Kyrie Irving remains unvaccinated, which means he cannot play in Nets’ home games at the Barclays Center because of New York’s vaccine mandate. He could practice at the team’s facility and play road games, but Nets’ ownership and management were clear they did not want to open the season with Irving in and out of the lineup. If he wouldn’t get vaccinated, if he was not fully eligible, he would not play.
Then the season started. While the Nets are winning — 21-8 and in first place in the East — it has come despite James Harden getting off to a slow start, with injuries and COVID leaving the team shorthanded most nights, and with Kevin Durant taking on a heavy load of minutes and scoring every night to pick up the slack.
That toll to win has the Nets’ brass changing their mind and it now will welcome an Irving return for road games, according to multiple reports. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news which the Nets themselves confirmed.
Nets owner Joe Tsai, GM Sean Marks, Coach Steve Nash and key players were fully supportive of the idea --- and Irving has been eager to return to play in the team’s away games. He can start practicing at team facility.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 17, 2021
Kyrie Irving's return isn't expected quickly. He has to pass a series of Covid tests before he can start working out with team. Nets haven't seen him workout and are unclear the kind of shape he's in now. He's expected to take his time ramping up again.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 17, 2021
The actual timeline for Irving joining the Nets on the court will depend on the condition he kept himself while away from the team. However, Irving may be back on Christmas Day, when the Nets take on the Lakers in Los Angeles.
He can practice because NYC views the Nets practice facility like a private office building, not a public venue like the Barclays Center.
Will having Irving part-time work? He is unquestionably an elite shot creator and scorer — 26.9 points a game and shooting 40.2% from 3 last season, making Third Team All-NBA — and it allows Harden to go back to a pure facilitator role, takes some scoring pressure off Durant, and lets Patty Mills target a Sixth Man of the Year award. The big three in Brooklyn looked like they fit well together last season, albeit in a very small sample size.
However, that is just road games. When home, the Nets will have to return to the lineups we have seen to start the season. That lack of continuity could be troublesome and could create locker room tension. That tension could become exacerbated in the cauldron of the playoffs, if Kyrie is still part-time then. Or, Durant and Harden could get everyone to fall in line and it’s no problem.
Either way, it appears Kyrie Irving will return to the Nets soon. Part-time.