Kyrie Irving will return to the Brooklyn Nets as a part-time player, the team announced last Friday.
Irving has missed the first 30 games of the season after refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine and therefore not abiding by the New York City mandate that requires players be vaccinated to use indoor gyms, including the Nets home-court, the Barclays Center.
The Nets initially made the decision to keep Irving sidelined in games he was eligible for, saying they would not allow him to play until he was, “eligible to be a full-time participant.”
On the decision to allow Irving to rejoin the team, Nets general manager Sean Marks said in a statement, “We arrived at this decision with the full support of our players and after careful consideration of our current circumstances, including players missing games due to injuries and health and safety protocols. We believe that the addition of Kyrie will not only make us a better team but allow us to more optimally balance the physical demand on the entire roster.”
Irving enters health and safety protocols
In order for Irving to return, he is required to pass a series of COVID-19 tests. However, on Saturday, Irving was placed in health and safety protocols along with his teammate Kevin Durant, joining James Harden and seven other players in the Nets rotation in the protocols.
As an unvaccinated player, Irving will need to return negative COVID-19 tests for five consecutive days before he is eligible to return to the team. Vaccinated players including Durant and the rest of the team, excluding Irving, will be eligible to return 10 days after testing positive, or after returning two negative COVID-19 tests, at least 24 hours apart.
What Irving’s return means for the Nets
Irving will not be eligible to play in all home games, as well as games played in New York’s Madison Square Garden, or in Toronto, where no unvaccinated person can enter the country starting in January.
When Irving is eligible to play, he will undoubtedly be a valuable asset in the games he plays. Although the Nets are currently leading the Eastern Conference standings, the decision to bring Irving back was made to alleviate some of the workload that has been placed on the rest of the roster, namely Durant.
Durant has had an MVP-level season so far but has had to shoulder a huge load to keep the Nets atop the standings, as Harden has not played up to his typical standards and the team doesn’t have many other initiators on offense.
Irving will act as another ball-handler and shot creator, which is a presence the Nets will need if they wish to meet their championship goals. Irving is a great shooter, arguably the best ball handler of all time and an elite finisher at the rim. His ability to break down defenses by getting into the paint and finishing at the rim will bring a factor to the Nets offense that they have been lacking to some degree this season.
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