Durant, Irving enter COVID-19 safety protocols

Kevin Durant Kyrie Irving
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Nets All-Stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols after potential exposure to COVID-19, according to the team, which did not clarify whether either player tested positive for the virus. 

The announcement comes just one day after Brooklyn announced that they would bring back Irving, who is unvaccinated, for road games, as he is still ineligible to play in New York City due to vaccine restrictions. 

The news is yet another devastating blow to the Nets, which now has nine players entered into the league’s protocols — including Durant, Irving, James Harden, Paul Millsap, LaMarcus Aldridge, James Johnson, DeAndre’ Bembry, Jevon Carter, and Bruce Brown.

The team will now be severely undermanned, and without several of their best players, for their Saturday night contest against the Orlando Magic, and likely for their Sunday night game against the Denver Nuggets.

Durant, who is vaccinated, enters the protocols despite having tested positive for COVID-19 in March of 2020. 

Amid the chaos of the COVID-19 uptick in the locker room, the team had agreed to allow Irving make his way back to the team for 24 remaining road games (including every game outside of New York and Toronto), but the controversial star’s comeback lasted less than 24 hours. 

Irving would have needed to record negative COVID-19 tests on five successive days before he can play, and then he would need to be tested every day thereafter — but that timeline is now in flux, as Irving joins eight teammates in the protocols. 

Due to the present circumstances, if Irving has COVID-19, he will likely be out until he could play in the Nets contest on Jan. 5 in Indiana against the Pacers, and then again in Chicago against the Bulls on Jan. 12 — meaning he would miss at least 13 of the next 15 games. 

If any player in the NBA’s safety protocols (including Irving) returns two COVID-19 tests on successive days, or they spend 10 days consecutively testing, however, they would be eligible to return, as Kristian Winfield of the Daily News reported.

Aside from home games, if Irving goes with the first route, and posts two negative tests one day apart, he could possibly take the floor on Christmas Day, when the Nets play in Los Angeles against the Lakers.

Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that the Nets would be signing forward Wenyen Gabriel, who currently plays for the Wisconsin Herd of the NBA G League, to a 10-day hardship contract.

The uptick in COVID-related absences among the Nets mirrors New York at large, as the Omicron variant of the virus caused a record number of positive cases in a single day on Friday, with 21,027 people testing positive in the state, and 10,286 seeing positive test results in New York City. 

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the protocols for Irving’s return to action.