Pause gives Nets chance to breathe, but lineup questions remain

Durant Kyrie Nets
Kevin Durant (left) and Kyrie Irving (right)
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Barclays Center was dark on Sunday night and will fall dark again on Tuesday after the NBA postponed a pair of games for the Nets as COVID-19 cases continued to pop up on their roster. 

The pause will help the Nets get their house in order, though it remained unclear on Monday what the team’s lineup could look like for their first game back on Thursday in Portland. Currently, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre’ Bembry, Jevon Carter, James Jonson, Bruce Brown, Paul Millsap, and Day’Ron Sharpe are all in the NBA’s health and safety protocol. 

Impacted players must quarantine for 10 days but could return to action sooner if they have two negative COVID tests at least 24 hours apart. Theoretically, that could mean Brooklyn begins to see some more of their regulars return Thursday or for their nationally televised Christmas Day showdown with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Most players on protocol should be close to returning around that time or could test out early from protocol. That would mean that Brooklyn would get back Millsap, Johnson, Carter, Brown, Bembry, Aldridge, and most notably, Harden.

Brooklyn had been hanging on through the COVID outbreak with wins over Toronto and Philadelphia before falling to a COVID-decimated Orlando Magic team. Saturday’s loss came as Patty Mills was forced to play, despite having a scheduled day off, and Blake Griffin had to play the entire second half in pain after suffering a knee injury.

“We go play basketball whether it’s eight guys or 14 guys or whatever it is,” Griffin said on Saturday after the loss. “As far as when everybody comes back, we’ll take bodies, as many bodies as we can. When Ky comes back, we’ll obviously welcome him back. We’re excited to have him back. We’ll kind of cross that bridge when it comes to it. Right now, it’s just too much chaos to worry about anything else in the future that we can’t control at the moment.”

Irving’s return will be a bit more complicated when he clears protocol. Despite his unvaccinated status, Irving can still test negative twice at least 24 hours apart and be able to test out.

However, Irving will be subjected to much harsher restrictions than his vaccinated teammates. The Nets’ star will have to undergo daily testing, he won’t be able to go to any bars, restaurants, clubs, entertainment venues or other large indoor gatherings, and will be required to wear a mask inside team facilities among other limitations.

Since Irving is unvaccinated, he is only eligible to play in road games for Brooklyn. New York City’s vaccine mandate would require Iriving to take the jab to play at games at the Barclays Center.