When Kyrie Irving does clear the NBA’s health and safety protocols and gets back onto the court, the Nets won’t be in a rush to get him back into a game.
Head coach Steve Nash said on Monday that he was expecting Irving to go through at least a week to two weeks of practice time before the Nets superstar takes the court for a game. Irving has been in protocol since Dec. 18, just a day after the Nets announced they’d allow him to play on a part-time basis.
“He’s obviously been isolating, so that kind of puts another layer to the ramp-up,” Nash said. “He’s been working out. I’d imagine it’d be closer to two weeks once he comes out of protocol. We’ll just have to see how it goes though because we have to evaluate him from a physical and performance standpoint, and then a basketball standpoint as well.”
Following Monday’s game in Los Angeles, eight of the Nets next nine games will take place in Brooklyn. That means that Irving’s first game with the Nets this season could only come in one of a handful of dates.
It leaves Jan. 5 in Indiana, Jan. 12 in Chicago and Jan. 17 in Cleveland as the three possible games that Irving returns to the court, barring any further setbacks. Since he has not been vaccinated, under New York City’s current COVID mandates, he cannot play in any home games because he has not gotten the jab.
While Irving’s part-time return has ignited a firestorm of controversy among basketball fans and observers, the Nets players have been more than eager to welcome him back into the fold.
“Hopefully we can get him back full-time, but it’s definitely going to be scary hour. I think he’s going to break the game for us,” Nic Claxton said. “Make things easier for everybody on the court. I’m ready to get my brother back.”
In 54 games last season for the Nets, Iriving averaged 26.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 1.4 steals per game. His 26.9 points per game were ninth in the league last season.
The Nets team that Iriving will eventually return to is a bit different than the one he was part of in the past. COVID has only added to that, especially in recent weeks.
“We’re going to welcome him back. It’s still Kyrie Irving,” DeAndre’ Bembry said. “We know what he can do on the floor. It’s more so just getting out there and still getting reps. Trying, not build him in, but just more so just work him through what we’ve been doing this year. I know it’s a completely different team this year. I know we’re kind of rolling, so we’re not too worried where to put Kyrie.
“We all know what he can do on the floor, so it’s just getting him there. That’s really the biggest thing we want right now.”
Bembry said that he has spoken with Irving and that he is in good spirits. Irving has been a part of the Nets group chat since the start of the season and Bembry described it as Iriving always being connected with the team.
“We’ll welcome him with open arms,” he said.