The long wait for Kyrie Irving’s return to play appears to be at an end. A little less than three months after Sean Marks and Joe Tsai banished him from play, Irving is expected to play Wednesday night in Indianapolis, still unvaccinated.
Shams Charania reported the news early Monday, saying that Irving has targeted the Pacers game.
Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving is expected to make his season debut Wednesday on the road against the Indiana Pacers, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. After missing the Nets’ first 35 games of the season, Irving has targeted Wednesday for his return.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 3, 2022
Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Lewis both confirmed Shams’ report. Expect to hear more when Steve Nash speaks with the media before Monday’s game vs. Memphis at Barclays Center.
Irving got a reprieve from Marks and Tsai on December 18, but he immediately tested positive for COVID-19 and had to enter health and safety protocols. Since returning to HSS Training Center, his head coach and teammates have all said how good he’s looked, with Kevin Durant calling him a “master” James Harden “elite” and Steve Nash, the man who’ll make the ultimate decision to play him, “great and gifted.”
Nets players basically confirmed the report to the media later Monday morning.
“Yeah. You know, he’s a one-of-one player, one-of-one individual. We can’t wait to have him back. Hopefully he’s going to be with us in Indiana. So we’re looking forward to having him back,” said Nic Claxton. “You know there’ll be a small adjustment period, but having one of the best point guards of all time on a court, you can never go wrong with that.”
“Everyone knows who he is and what he does; but I think he’ll be able to bring that good pace and movement and ball movement to the group. At times we get stagnant and he’ll be perfect for that.”
Prior to Saturday’s game against the Clippers, Nash talked about Irving’s ramp up with the “stay-ready” group.
“He looks great considering he was in isolation for however many days: 10+ days I think. For him to come out of that and look as good as he has playing with the stay-ready group and getting his rhythm back has been exciting,” said Nash.
Irving, in his first media availability last week, said that he “respected” the Nets decision to bench him for all games and bar him from practice, rather than play him only on the road.
“I just really empathized and understood their choice to say, ‘If you’re not going to be vaccinated, fully vaccinated, then you can’t be a full participant.’ I understood their decision and I respected it. I really had to sit back and try not to become too emotionally attached to what they were deciding to do. I had to sit down and really evaluate things and and see it from their perspective,” said Irving.
He was not asked if has changed his stance on vaccination.
Until those comments, the general consensus among media was that Irving wouldn’t return until January 12 vs. the Bulls in Chicago, a short road trip. The Nets will head out again on January 17 for a four-game road trip, then return for two games at Barclays before once again going on the road for five games starting on January 29. That would mean Irving would be available, barring injury or rest days, for 11 of the 17 over the next month, starting Wednesday. Overall, Irving will be eligible to play 23 games for the rest of the year. (The Nets will also have to make up a postponed game vs. the Blazers.)
Irving can’t play in either New York arena because he has yet to be vaccinated. Nor can he play in Toronto, further reducing the number of games he’s eligible for.
With Irving about to return and ten Nets players clearing protocols, only Joe Harris (left ankle surgery) remains sidelined.
- Kyrie Irving expected to make Nets season debut at Pacers after vaccine drama - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Sources: Brooklyn Nets preparing for Kyrie Irving to make NBA season debut Wednesday - ESPN
- Nets’ Kyrie Irving expected to make season debut Wednesday, reports say - Barbara Barker - Newsday
- Kyrie Irving returns soon: What shape is he in? What might the Nets do in the playoffs? - Alex Schiffer - The Athletic
- Kyrie Irving Expected To Make Season Debut With Brooklyn Nets On Wednesday - Adam Zagoria - Forbes Sports Money
- Four pressing questions facing Kyrie Irving and Nets ahead of star’s return as part-time player - Scott Rafferty - The Sporting News