Nets Don’t Expect Kyrie’s Part-Time Availability To Disrupt Continuity

When Kyrie Irving returns to the court for the Nets in January, he’ll only be eligible to play in certain games since he remains unvaccinated for COVID-19. New York City’s vaccine mandate will prevent him from playing in Brooklyn or in games at Madison Square Garden. International travel restrictions will also keep him out of road games in Toronto.

However, the Nets don’t expect Irving’s part-time availability to disrupt the team’s continuity, as multiple players and head coach Steve Nash said on Thursday.

“I may be a little naive but I think I just keep it really simple,” Nash said, per Nick Friedell of ESPN. “Kyrie plays on the road and we figure out how he rejoins the group, finds his rhythm, and his place in the team and when we come home we’re back to normal, the way we’ve been all year. So I’m just trying to keep it really simple.”

“He’s a high IQ player,” Kevin Durant said of his All-Star teammate. “It’s just a matter of him getting his legs up under him and his wind up under him. And then for us we’re going to run plays for him, we’ll try to look for him. We play team basketball — but he can adapt and do anything out there so we’re not worried about him.”

It remains unclear when Irving will be ready to make his season debut. He has exited the health and safety protocols after testing positive for COVID-19 earlier this month, but continues to work on ramping up his conditioning in advance of his return. The Nets’ next two road games are on January 5 in Indiana and January 12 in Chicago, so those are the most realistic target dates for Kyrie for now.

Here’s more on Irving and his impending return:

  • In his first comments to reporters this week, Irving said that he “knew the consequences” of remaining unvaccinated, but “wasn’t prepared for them,” as Mark W. Sanchez of The New York Post writes. Still, Kyrie recognized why the Nets decided to have him remain away from the team for the first couple months of the season. “I understood their decision and respected it,” Irving told reporters, including Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN, on Wednesday. “I really had to sit back and think and try not to become too emotionally attached to what they were deciding to do. I had to really evaluate things and see it from their perspective, meaning the organization, my teammates. I really empathized and I understood their choice to say, ‘If you are not going to be fully vaccinated, then you can’t be a full [participant].'”
  • Nash said on Thursday that he hasn’t talked to Irving about vaccines since the point guard returned to the team, Sanchez writes for The New York Post. “Not since we had those conversations in the preseason,” Nash said. While it would certainly make life easier for the Nets if Irving decides to get vaccinated, it doesn’t sound like the team is pressuring him to do so.
  • In another article for The New York Post, Sanchez explores how Irving’s return will give the Nets two distinct squads depending on whether or not Kyrie is available.
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