Kyrie Irving made his first appearance in front of the cameras since media day and was back on the court with his Brooklyn Nets teammates for the first time since clearing COVID protocol on Tuesday. Wednesday was day 1 of Irving’s work towards getting back into game shape and get back into the Nets’ lineup on the road.
Irving is still unvaccinated, which prevents him from playing homes games at the Barclays Center because of the vaccine mandate in New York City. The Nets had originally opted not to allow Irving to play for them this season unless he was fully vaccinated but relented on that earlier this month due to the high number of players that tested positive for COVID.
“Incredibly grateful just to be back in the building. Welcomed back with open arms by teammates and the whole entire organization,” Irving said after her first practice with the Nets on Wednesday. “Not going to lie, it’s been relatively tough to watch from the sidelines. With everything going on in the world, I know everybody is feeling it. Just praying for everybody to be healthy during these times.
“But if I get the opportunity to get on the court and play with some of my teammates, even if it’s just on the road for away games, I’m just grateful for the opportunity.”
While Wednesday was the first time Irving had worked out with his teammates, he had been working out at local gyms to stay in shape. Irving told reporters that he had gotten time in middle school and college gyms. The Nets are still expecting some time for Irving to ramp up before he is ready to go in an NBA game.
"It's my first day back around the block with the guys, and it felt like it's been a long time"
Kyrie Irving talks about reintegrating himself with the Nets: pic.twitter.com/q4dzFJYlPM
— Nets Videos (@SNYNets) December 29, 2021
Head coach Steve Nash said earlier this week he expected it to be a one to a two-week period before Irving would be game ready. And Nash didn’t seem keen on rushing the Nets star back either.
“He looks great considering he just came out of protocols and hasn’t played basketball,” Nash said, according to the New York Post. “How does he recover from today? How many high-intensity (practices) does he need to feel comfortable, confident from a personal standpoint? … I couldn’t give you an answer.”
Irving’s return is made a bit more complicated because he can only play in games away from New York City. The Nets will play seven of their next nine games at home, which limits when Irving can return. It leaves Jan. 5 in Indiana, Jan. 12 in Chicago or Jan. 17 in Cleveland as possible dates for his return.
The decision by Irving not to get vaccinated created quite the stir around the NBA and sporting world.
“I knew the consequences. I wasn’t prepared for them, by no stretch of the imagination,” Irving said. “Coming into the season, I had my thought process of being able to be a full-time teammate and just go out and have fun and provide a great brand of basketball out there. But unfortunately, it didn’t happen like that. Things happen for a reason, and now we’re here and I’m just grateful for this.”