For the first time since the preseason, Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving spoke with members of the media on Wednesday. The seven-time All-Star — who just cleared health and safety protocols — is currently ramping up toward a return to the team as a part-time player.
When it became clear that Irving would be ineligible to participate in home games due to non-compliance with New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, the Nets organization initially made the decision to hold him out entirely. As Brooklyn’s decision-makers saw it, he was either all-in or all-out.
During his media availability, the 2016 NBA champion spoke out about the team’s response after he opted out of getting vaccinated.
“I understood their decision and I respected it… I knew the consequences,” Irving said. “I wasn’t prepared for them by no stretch of the imagination. Coming into the season, I had my thought process on being a full-time teammate and just go out and have fun and provide a great brand of basketball out there. But, unfortunately, it didn’t happen like that.”
Nevertheless, he’s ready to turn the page and help his team now, if he can.
‘Grateful to Be Back in the Building’
With as many as 10 Nets players being in health and safety protocols at the same time earlier this month, the team was essentially forced to allow Irving back into the fold. Regardless of how it went down, though, he’s just thankful to be getting another opportunity to play.
“Incredibly grateful just to be back in the building,” Irving said of the shot. “Welcomed back with open arms [from] my teammates, the whole entire organization. Not gonna lie, it’s been relatively tough to watch from the sideline with everything going on in the world. I know everybody is feeling it. So, just praying for everybody to be healthy during these times.”
As long as Irving remains unvaccinated, he’ll be limited to participating in road games. However, he’s stoked to be able to contribute whenever it’s permitted.
“If I get the opportunity to get on the court and play with some of my teammates — even if it is just on the road for away games — I’m just grateful for the opportunity.”
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Coach Nash Comments
For his part, Nets coach Steve Nash noted that Irving was part of a “stay-ready” group that worked on conditioning and played during practice. He also gave his opinion on how the 29-year-old, who averaged 26.9 points, 6.0 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game last season, looked in his return to the team facility.
“He looks great considering he just came out of protocols and hasn’t played basketball,” Nash told reporters, via ESPN.
“How does he recover from today? How many high-intensity [practices] does he need to feel comfortable, confident? It’s still a shifting landscape,” Nash said said of Irving’s condition. “I couldn’t give you an answer, but as far as seeing him in the flesh today he looked as well as you could expect considering everything that’s happened in the last few weeks.”
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