NEW YORK (AP) — Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash said the organization is “hopeful” that Kyrie Irving could make his season debut Wednesday at Indianapolis, “but no determinations have been made yet.”
Irving has not been vaccinated against the coronavirus, which makes him ineligible to play home games under a New York City vaccine mandate. The Nets initially rejected the prospect of having Irving play only road games before reconsidering when a COVID-19 outbreak depleted the team’s roster.
Asked what would be the determining factors in Irving’s return, Nash said, “how he feels and whether we determine it is safe for him to come back.”
Nets general manager Sean Marks said on Dec. 18 that the team was open to bringing Irving back as a part-time player. At the time, Brooklyn had 10 players in the COVID-19 protocol.
The Nets have been worried about how much they’ve used the other two stars on their roster, Kevin Durant and James Harden. Entering Monday night’s game against Memphis, Durant was averaging 37.1 minutes per game and Harden was averaging 36.7 minutes.
“We’d love to have Kyrie back,” Harden said after Brooklyn’s 118-104 loss to Memphis. “He’s a special talent. … It definitely gives us a spark and we miss him. We can’t wait to have him back.”
Brooklyn entered Monday’s game with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.
In addition to home games at Barclays Center, Irving cannot play at the New York Knicks’ arena, Madison Square Garden, or at Golden State or Toronto because of vaccine mandates in those teams’ home cities.
“Can’t wait to see him out there,” Durant said. “This is our livelihoods. This is something we dream about every day. To go through this situation and then to get an opportunity to play right now, I know there’s a lot of emotions going through his head. As teammates, we have to be there to support him from the beginning of it. He’ll start to get his rhythm and start to figure out how he wants to play and we’ll go from there.”
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