*Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving is back as a part-time player for the first time in a while since he was curbed over his refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Irving was back in action on Wednesday, a return made possible by the Nets’ decision to allow him to play road games in response to the teams’ current roster situation. Irving is still barred from playing in Barclays Center due to New York’s vaccine mandate for indoor venues.
Irving spoke with the media after Wednesday’s practice about the initial decision to sideline him for all games, saying:
“I understood their decision and I respected it. I really had to sit back and think 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 see it from their perspective, meaning the organization and my teammates. I just really empathized and understood their choice to say, ‘If you’re not going to be fully vaccinated, then you can’t be a full participant.’
“I knew the consequences. I wasn’t prepared for them, by no stretch of the imagination. Coming into the season, I had my thought process on being able to be a full-time teammate and go out and have fun and provide a sense of a great brand of basketball out there. But unfortunately, it didn’t happen like that.”
Kyrie Irving discussed retirement rumors on Instagram LIVE. pic.twitter.com/4b8d18c1jG
— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) October 14, 2021
“This was my first time being with other pros on one floor again, playing pick-up or just working out. I’m thankful to everyone that helped me stay in shape during the time playing in middle school gyms, playing in some college gyms, trying to keep things as private as possible, but also just with the intent to get the most that I can out of some of these pick-up games.
“So it was tough and I was resilient, but it’s nothing like being in this environment and playing with the best of the best. This is where I belong, this is where I’ve worked my entire life to be. It was like being at your first day of school again, just going back out there and I missed it.”
Meanwhile, we reported earlier that covid cases are spiking right now, with multiple teams — across multiple sports dealing with mass breakouts. As such, the Nets decided that bringing an unvaccinated player into the fray makes sense.
Brooklyn’s next three games are all at home, and Irving’s first opportunity to play will be against the Indiana Pacers on Jan. 5.