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Steve Nash won’t say if Kyrie Irving will start but he’s going to play a ‘big chunk’

Philadelphia 76ers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

In talking with Nets beat writers in Indianapolis, Steve Nash wouldn’t say if Kyrie Irving will start Wednesday night vs. the Pacers, but he’s definitely playing.

After New York City regulations banned him from playing in the city, a nearly three month long standoff with Nets brass over his vaccination status, a change in position, a positive COVID test and finally a ramp-up, Irving is not just “available.” He’s back.

“I don’t think it’s where he can play 38 [minutes],” Nash said in talking with the media after shootaround. “But I think he can play a big chunk of the game. He’s played a lot — he’s had three or four full court days with the 5-on-5, so I think he’s capable of playing extended minutes, but not necessarily his customary high 30s.”

Nash spoke as well about why bringing Irving back now works for the Nets when it didn’t back in mid-October when the team told Irving, no vaccine, no play.

“I think when we realized how much stuff was thrown at us, COVID, COVID got dicey,” Nash said. “We ended up having 13 players who had COVID. We were going around signing a bunch of 10-days when we have a guy who can play for us, so what’s the difference between a 10-day and a guy — those are part-time players too.

“It was an opportunity to bring [Irving] back in the fold and use a resource that we have that we weren’t using. So — everything has been in flux this season and last season so I think there’s the other case to it too. We have been adaptable. We’ve found solutions. We’ve found ways to work through situations. We’re going to bring him back in now.”

Earlier this week, Nash had called Irving “great” and “gifted” after watching him work out at HSS Training Center in Brooklyn. Irving can practice but not play in New York arenas and has other restrictions imposed by the league and players union. He also cannot play in Toronto after Canada barred all unvaccinated visitors. All told, Irving would be eligible for 23 games starting vs. the Pacers. He will be able play in two games next week, Monday in Portland, then Wednesday in Chicago.

In addition to Irving, LaMarcus Aldridge is available after being out with a sore foot vs. the Grizzlies. With only Joe Harris officially out, the Nets will have 18 healthy players on hand at the Gainbridge Field House in Indianapolis: 14 players on standard NBA deals, two two-ways and two 10-days.

Aldridge spoke for the first time about his experience with COVID-19. After testing positive, Aldridge said he couldn’t do anything during his quarantine and experienced some symptoms, telling reporters he had headaches, body aches and fatigue and his still working his way back to normalcy.

“You don’t go back to feeling normal,” said Aldridge. “So I’m still trying to get my legs back, get my wind back, and just feel normal again.

“You don’t feel like you’re clear-headed yet. Your wind and your legs are still tired. So it’s a process coming back from that stuff.”

In the space of a little more than a week, the Nets have gone from having 10 players in health and safety protocols to none, making them one of the few teams to get out from under COVID restrictions. Other than the two 10-days players, only Patty Mills and Blake Griffin didn’t need to enter the protocols.