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Nets place Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving in COVID-19 health, safety protocols

Philadelphia 76ers v Brooklyn Nets

BROOKLYN, NY - DECEMBER 16: Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets looks on during the game against the Philadelphia 76ers on December 16, 2021 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

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The Brooklyn Nets — already with seven players scheduled to be out Saturday due to COVID protocols (including James Harden) — have added two more names to the list, including a critical one.

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have been placed in the league’s COVID protocols, the Nets announced.

Durant will not play against the Magic on Saturday night, and it is possible he will not be available on Christmas Day when the Nets are in Los Angeles to take on the Lakers in a marquee game.

Irving just began practicing in the team facilities again after Nets management reversed course and decided he could play in road games and practices. Irving is not vaccinated, which is why he cannot play in Nets’ home games, he does not meet the New York City vaccine requirement for public buildings. Because he is unvaccinated, Irving has to have five consecutive days of negative tests before he can return to the Nets’ practice facility. He also is at far higher risk of hospitalization or other severe outcomes from COVID-19.

A vaccinated player is in protocols for 10 days or until they have two negative tests 24 hours apart. It is possible, as seen with Russell Westbrook this week, for a player to return in fewer than 10 days. Vaccinated players are far less likely to have severe symptoms and are far more likely to return quickly. Durant is vaccinated.

Durant and Irving make 72 NBA players who have gone into league COVID protocols in December. After Christmas, the NBA will return to daily testing of players (vaccinated or not) and will go back to stricter mask mandates for players.

Durant has been playing at an MVP level this season, averaging a lague-leading 27.9 points per game, plus 7.9 rebounds and 5.9 assists a night. He has become a midrange assassin, and is shooting 51.1% on shots in the 10-16 foot range (32% of his attempts) and he’s draining 59.5% of shots from 16 feet out to the arc. Durant has done this while taking on a heavy load for Brooklyn — he is top 10 in the league in both total minutes played and usage rate.

Irving has not set foot on the court for the Nets this season, having been willing to lose half his salary due to not playing because he remains unvaccinated.