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Nets hope Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving clear protocols once team returns home

Boston Celtics v Brooklyn Nets - Game Five Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Ahead of Monday night’s game against the Clippers in Los Angeles, Steve Nash reported there’s no changes to his players’ availability. No players have tested out of protocols and no new players have been added into protocols. Despite no changes, that won’t last too long … and for once the news is expected to be positive.

Following the Nets shootaround Monday, Steve Nash said he expects Kevin Durant will be cleared from health and safety protocols by the time the team returns back to Brooklyn. There’s hope Kyrie Irving as well.

“I think there’s a good chance Kevin will be. With Kyrie, I’m not sure but it’s coming,” said Nash on the superstars clearing protocols. “He’s already been in for eight days or more so he should be. I’m not sure the exact sure of how many days right now but he’s got to be getting close.”

Unlike Durant, Irving will need to complete a ramp-up program before being able to return to play. The Nets head coach said Irving’s ramp-up program will likely stretch two weeks and he’ll have to meet benchmarks along the way.

“It’s hard to say but I would say probably somewhere between a week and two weeks,” said Nash on Irving’s timeline. “He’s isolating, so that kinda puts another layer to the ramp-up. It’s not like he’s been working out. I’d imagine it’s going to be closer to two weeks once he comes out of protocols. We’ll see how it goes though because we have to evaluate him from a physical and performance standpoint, and then a basketball standpoint as well.”

Shortly after Nash spoke, Adrian Wojnarowski reported a change in the league’s health and safety protocols that could mean a quicker return for the remaining Nets on protocols, reducing the NBA quarantine from 10 days to six ... as long as the player is vaccinated and asymptomatic.

Vaccinated NBA players and coaches can now clear quarantine after six days if COVID-19 testing data shows they’re no longer at risk to be infectious, according to a memo distributed to teams Monday and obtained by ESPN.

The NBA and National Basketball Players Association agreed to the changes that’ll replace a protocol that had required league personnel to wait 10 days to test out of quarantine on a return to competition. The new protocol includes players, coaches, staff and referees.

Individuals can still test out of quarantine with two negative tests 24 hours each apart.

That’s a big positive for the Nets four rookies all of whom entered protocols in the last 10 days. Day’Ron Sharpe was placed in protocols on December 18 while Cam Thomas and the Nets two two-ways, Kessler Edwards and David Duke Jr., tested positive sometime before last Thursday.

The news came almost simultaneously with a change in federal guidelines shortening the quarantine requirement for health care workers from 10 days to five.

Although Irving is only eligible to play in road contests (excluding games in New York and Toronto), his teammates are thrilled to have the seven-time All-Star back in the fold to make the East-best Nets a scarier team. Nic Claxton was the latest teammate to express his excitement for Irving’s looming return in January.

“Hopefully we can get him back full-time, but it’s definitely gonna be scary hours,” said Claxton who’s just been named the team’s union rep. “He’s going to break the game for us and make things easier for everyone on the court. I’m ready to get my brother back.”

DeAndre’ Bembry, who is close with Irving — both St. Patrick High School alums — explained how even though the Nets guard hasn’t been able to practice with the team since the front office’s initial decision to keep him away from the team, Irving has communicated with his teammates through group chat messaging. Bembry added that he’s in “good spirits” with his return on the horizon.

“I know he’s in good spirits. We’ve always had group chats throughout the season and he was always attached to the group chats, so he’s always been connected with the team,” said Bembry. “Somehow, someway he always checks in. It’s more so us giving him his space and obviously, now he’s more so ready to get back and get into things.

“For the most part, we all gave him his space so he can clear his head and do whatever he needs to do. We know he’s in good spirits. He’s in the protocols now trying to get healthy. We’re just looking forward to him getting the opportunity. We didn’t know when it was going to happen or if it was going to happen so the fact he’s ready to come now, we’re welcoming him with open arms.”

LaMarcus Aldridge, who entered the league’s health and safety protocols on December 14, will not join the team for Sunday night’s game against the Clippers as he remains on protocols. Like Durant, Nash believes the veteran big will re-join the group when the team touches back down in Brooklyn. The Nets head coach had previously disclosed Aldridge would also need a ramp-up before returning prior.

“I don’t even know what the latest technicality is, but I know he’s not joining us today. He should be ready to re-join the group when we get back.”

Nets could give 10-day players a second 10-day for insurance purposes

The Nets signed Langston Galloway to a second 10-day contract Monday morning. Galloway’s initial 10-day deal was up, and Nash said the team is definitely considering the same with the other three 10-day players on the roster (James Ennis III, Shaq Harrison and Wenyen Gabriel) for insurance purposes with the continuing COVID-19 outbreak across the league.

“I don’t know if I have a good answer for you but I think we’ll definitely consider re-signing them just because everything’s so in flux right now,” Nash said. “So we’ll see. I think we might not keep them all but there’s a good chance we keep two or three I would say. Maybe all four just because we don’t know when guys are coming in and out or the remaining guys on our team that hasn’t had COVID during this outbreak get it, do we want to make sure we have some continuity?

“I think we’re just trying to be prepared for all outcomes and be as flexible as possible.”