Wednesday could be a can’t-miss game for the Brooklyn Nets.
Kyrie Irving is expected to make his season debut — his first time donning a Nets uniform since June 13 — when Brooklyn travels to Indiana on Wednesday to face the Pacers, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. Head coach Steve Nash wouldn’t confirm those reports when he spoke with reporters ahead of Monday’s game against Memphis.
Nash said that the Nets were hopeful that Irving would play against the Pacers, but there hadn’t been a determination made yet. Whether or not Irving plays will be based on how the Nets star feels and if the team feels it’s safe for him to come back.
“I think Kyrie looks great,” Nash said about how Irving has looked in practice. “He’s such a talented and gifted player and to see him on the floor with our guys has been great. We look forward to him coming back.”
Irving returned to the court last week when he participated in his first team practice during the regular season as he prepared to return to the Nets lineup for the first time this season.
The Nets superstar has not played a game this year because he remains unvaccinated and is ineligible to play home games at the Barclays Center because of New York City’s vaccine mandate. The front office originally announced that they wouldn’t let Irving play on a part-time basis, but relented last month after the team was hit by an outbreak of COVID that sidelined a total of 13 players.
Irving’s return was delayed after he was placed in health and safety protocols a day after the Nets announced they would allow him to return to the team to play on the road.
Since the Nets are in the middle of a stretch where they’re playing a high number of games at the Barclays Center, the dates that Irving can return to action are limited. Wednesday’s game against the Pacers is the first game that he would be eligible to play in.
If he didn’t play then, next Monday’s rescheduled game with the Portland Trail Blazers would have been the next day he could have returned. The Nets’ trip to Chicago to face the Bulls on Jan.12 or Jan. 17 in Cleveland against the Cavaliers would be the next possible dates after that.
Brooklyn will play four straight games on the road beginning with the contest in Cleveland on Jan. 17.