The Nets are still holding out hope that Kyrie Irving can play home games at Barclays Center this season despite New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ rulings that keep the unvaccinated star point guard off the floor in Brooklyn.
“I think around the Nets there’s still a confidence, maybe even more than an optimism that they’re going to get Kyrie Irving on a full-time basis at some point,” NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski said on ESPN’s NBA Today (h/t RealGM).
As it stands, Irving is ineligible for 11 of the Nets’ remaining 16 games this season with 10 home games at the Barclays Center and a visit to Madison Square Garden to face the Knicks still to go.
Irving missed the first 35 games of the 2021-22 season because he has not received the COVID-19 vaccine — a decision made by the Nets just before the start of the campaign.
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As COVID mandates lightened around the league, Irving returned to play on the road, but Mayor Adams and New York City maintained strict guidelines that kept the seven-time All-Star out of the picture for home games. Mandates in the Big Apple were loosened for the public on March 7, the private sector — NYC-run businesses — still must require all employees to be vaccinated.
There have been pleas to make a special exception for Irving, but Adams said that “it would send the wrong message” to do such a thing.
Irving’s importance cannot be understated for a Nets team that is woefully underperforming.
Starting the season as NBA title favorites, the Nets are 33-33 and sit in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, largely relying on Kevin Durant to carry the load after trading away James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers last month.
In 17 games this season, Irving is averaging 26.2 points per game which most recently featured a 50-point explosion on Tuesday night against the Charlotte Hornets.