Kyrie Irving will suit up for Brooklyn Nets games outside of New York City, marking a reversal from the team’s previous decision to keep their unvaccinated All-Star point guard out of the lineup entirely while vaccine mandates keep him from playing home games, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
ESPN Sources: With the unfolding circumstances of Brooklyn’s season – including injuries, Covid losses and an inordinate minutes load on their superstar players – the Nets are bringing back All-Star guard Kyrie Irving as a part-time player for games outside of New York.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 17, 2021
Because New York City requires everyone inside of arenas to present proof of vaccination, Irving will still be barred from playing games at the Barclays Center, as well as away games at Madison Square Garden and in Toronto, where cross-border travel will be banned for unvaccinated individuals in January.
But now, as the team reels from several injuries and COVID-related absences, they have decided to play Irving in all games in the United States, but outside of the Big Apple.
The unvaccinated Irving will need to record negative COVID-19 tests on five successive days before he can play, and then he will need to be tested every day thereafter, Wojnarowski reported.
The next road game for the Nets falls on Dec. 23, when the team heads to Portland for contest against the Trailblazers. After that, the team goes to Los Angeles to play the Lakers on Christmas Day.
The Nets have 24 remaining road games that Irving will be eligible to play in (He will be barred from 26 home games, as well as two games against the New York Knicks, and one against the Toronto Raptors).
According to Wojnarowski, Nets owner Joe Tsai, head coach Steve Nash, GM Sean Marks, and “key players” were “fully supportive of the idea.”
Despite dealing with Irving’s absence, and several other missing players, Brooklyn has still managed to record the best record in the Eastern Conference, with a 21-8 record that puts them ahead of the second-place Milwaukee Bucks by 2.5 games.