The Nets decided Friday that Irving would come back to practice and play in road games, even though he remains unable to play at home because he doesn’t meet New York City’s vaccine mandate.
The Nets originally determined that Irving wouldn’t play with them at all until he could play in all games. But worried about the heavy workload on Kevin Durant and short-handed with seven players unavailable because of the NBA’s health and safety protocols, the Nets figured they couldn’t pass up the chance to add the All-Star guard.
”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,” general manager Sean Marks said in a statement. ”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.”
Members of New York’s pro and college teams must be vaccinated against the coronavirus to be able to play in public arenas. Irving refused to get vaccinated and hasn’t practiced with the Nets since they returned from a week of training camp in San Diego in October.
Given that layoff, it’s unclear how soon he will be ready to play. But the Nets, despite leading the Eastern Conference with a 21-8 record, are in need of healthy bodies.
Starters James Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge and DeAndre’ Bembry are in health and safety protocols, along with Paul Millsap, Bruce Brown, James Johnson and Jevon Carter.
It’s forced Durant, the NBA’s leading scorer, to play far more minutes than the Nets would like. Coach Steve Nash said Thursday he wanted to get him rest, and the Nets have said Durant will rest a sore right ankle Saturday against Orlando in the opening night of a back-to-back.