Latest On Kyrie Irving

The Nets plan to bring Kyrie Irving back for road games once he clears health and safety protocols, but general manager Sean Marks may not be committed to that as a long-term decision, tweets Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. Asked today if the team will continue with Irving as a part-time player when the roster returns to normal, Marks declined to answer, calling the question “hypothetical.”

Brooklyn has been hit hard by COVID-19 in the past week and currently has 10 players in health and safety protocols with tonight’s addition of rookie Day’Ron Sharpe, tweets Tim Bontemps of ESPN. The Nets, who also have Joe Harris sidelined after ankle surgery and Nicolas Claxton sitting out with soreness in his wrist, are missing 12 players for tonight’s game with Orlando. They signed four players this week with hardship exceptions to fill out their roster.

Marks admits the extreme shortage of personnel was behind the decision to let Irving start playing again, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press, although he’s still ineligible for home games because he hasn’t met New York City’s vaccine requirement.

“Several months ago we made a decision that was based around what was best for the team,” Marks said. “What was best for the team at that point was continuity and I think we all see that continuity right now over the course of the last week and whatever the future looks like may be out the window for a while, and we’ve got to navigate that as best we can.”

Irving was placed in the league’s health and safety protocols earlier today, which means he either tested positive for the virus or returned an inconclusive result. Marks said he hasn’t appealed to Irving to get vaccinated or tried to change his mind about the issue, Reynolds adds.

“There’s also a risk for Kyrie when a guy comes in and if they’re not vaccinated,” Marks said. “I don’t want to get into those type of discussions, but that’s a risk for him coming into this environment, not just the team and so forth. But we’re all well aware of the status and his status and moving forward and how we’ll navigate this as best we can.”

Coach Steve Nash echoed Marks’ comments in a pre-game meeting with reporters, saying the original decision on Irving was based on continuity, but “continuity’s out the window now,” tweets David Aldridge of The Athletic.

“I’m excited to have Kyrie back,” Nash continued (Twitter link from Michael Scotto of HoopsHype). “He’s an incredible player, no matter what capacity. We’ll incorporate him in. It’s a positive for our group.”

Owner Joe Tsai also spoke about the thinking behind the reversal on Irving, telling Brian Lewis of The New York Post that the decision was made solely for basketball reasons and isn’t an attempt to make a statement about the vaccine mandate.

“We’re trying to be practical. And I’ve always said I don’t want to make this a political issue,” Tsai said. “My only religion is to win games and win the championship. That’s where we are.” 

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