The Brooklyn Nets are bringing back All-Star guard Kyrie Irving as a part-time player for games outside of New York, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The unfolding circumstances of Brooklyn’s season — including injuries, players lost to health and safety protocols and an inordinate minutes load on their superstar players — led the team to this move, sources said.
So far, Irving has been unwilling to satisfy New York City mandates and become vaccinated to play home games, but the turbulence of the ongoing NBA season has caused the organization to reconsider its preseason decision to fully sideline him, sources said.
Government rules allow Irving to practice at the home facility, and the Nets agreed with Irving on a plan that would allow him to start ramping back up for a return to play, sources said.
Irving has to test negative on five successive days before he can rejoin the team. Once he returns, he will have to test every day as an unvaccinated player.
The Nets’ next road game is Dec. 23 in Portland, followed by a Christmas Day game at the Los Angeles Lakers and a Dec. 27 game at the LA Clippers. That stretch is followed by three more home games.
In all, Brooklyn (21-8) has 26 more games at home and 27 on the road. However, Irving is ineligible to play in three of the road games, as two are against the Knicks, for whom the same vaccine mandate is in place, and one is against the Toronto Raptors. Travel for unvaccinated players across the border into Canada will be prohibited starting in January.
Nets owner Joe Tsai, general manager Sean Marks, coach Steve Nash and key players were uniformly supportive of the idea — and Irving has been eager to return to play in the team’s away games, sources said.
Before the season, there had been concerns about how Irving’s status as a part-time player might impact team chemistry, but a belief that he can help the Nets fight for home-court advantage in the playoffs and ease the wear and tear on Kevin Durant and James Harden were factors in convincing the team that his return was ultimately the best course, sources said.