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How soon Kyrie Irving? Not until after dreaded ‘ramp-up’

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2021 NBA Playoffs - Brooklyn Nets v Milwaukee Bucks

Kyrie Irving is back with the Nets ... sort of. He’s still in COVID protocols after testing positive a week ago. And once he gets two negative tests 24 hours apart, he’ll be back on the court at HSS Training Center ... ramping up.

How long will that process take? Shams Charania, talking with Pat McAfee of Fan Duel two days ago, speculated the earliest date he’ll return would be January 5 in Indiana but the more likely date, he thought was January 12 in Chicago. Under current New York City regs, he can only play on the road.

Brian Lewis also took a stab at speculating Friday as well, noting what Steve Nash said Thursday morning. Bottom line: it will be slow going with Irving first going up against the Nets “stay-ready” group, then likely on minutes restrictions before going at it full-time.

“No, I think he has to do some sort of ramp-up, some sort of playing not just [go right in],” Nets coach Steve Nash said of Irving. “When you’re at home working out by yourself, it’s a lot different.”

“It depends on what you’re doing, but usually individual workouts are half-court and one-on-none, one-on-one,” Nash added. “Maybe he gets a little bit of pickup basketball, but that probably was out the window once everyone starts playing again, whether they’re pros, high school, college kids, whatever. They’re back in their seasons; it’s probably harder and harder for him to find that.

“So there is, I think, a ramp-up, an opportunity for him to play a little bit, whether it’s with our group or the ‘stay-ready’ group whenever he’s out of protocols. So I think there’s a ramp-up, for sure.”

His health doesn’t seem a problem. Irving, despite his unvaccinated state, doesn’t appear to have had serious complications from COVID. Nash has said most of his players have been asymptomatic with the only issues minor ones. So let’s take a look at the schedule.

After the Nets road games on January 5 and 12, they have a four-game road trip, starting January 17 against Cleveland. Then, it’s Washington on the 19th, San Antonio on the 21st and Minnesota on the 23rd. After a short two-game homestand, the Nets head out to the West coast on a five-game road trip.

At this point, Irving will also miss three road games, against the Knicks at the Garden on February 16 and April 6, and vs. the Toronto Raptors on March 1. Canada recently banned all unvaccinated individuals from crossing the border.

So what’s the best bet for how many games Irving will play? Somewhere around 20 seems about right.

Meanwhile, the Nets will be awaiting word Friday on a number of more pressing issues, like 1) will any more Nets clear health and safety protocols before the team plane departs New York for Los Angeles; 2) will the Nets add another 10-day replacement; 3) will a proposed NBA-NBPA deal on reducing the quarantine from 10 to seven days take effect before Christmas Day games and 4) will the Christmas Day schedule change.

We should know about all that during the course of the day with the most likely change being the schedule.

Right now, the Nets-Lakers game is set for 8 p.m. ET but there’s speculation that the league could change the sequence of its five games. The marquee nature of New York vs. Los Angeles has been hurt by all the COVID issues and the Lakers are a sub-.500 team.

Jabari Young of CNBC tweeted Friday morning that the Warriors and Suns, with the best record in the NBA and relatively unscathed rosters could become the prime time attraction.

So the best advice is pause your last-minute shopping a couple of time during Christmas Eve to check.