Kyrie Irving has yet to play a single game for the Brooklyn Nets this year.
Because the 29-year-old refused to get vaccinated coming into the season, and as a result of New York mandates forcing home athletes to get their shots, he was only eligible to play in away games. For a while the Nets refused to accommodate that – and Irving lost a lot of money in the process.
In December, however – things changed. Injuries and COVID-related absences made Irving’s return a necessity, and Brooklyn ultimately caved.
Going forward, Irving will be permitted to only play in away games.
During a recent media session with reporters, Irving admitted that there was some hesitancy involved with his big NBA return.
Specifically, he also confessed his biggest fear: not playing up to the standard he has previously set for himself.
“Last night I could barely sleep,” he said per Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “I’m like, man, I just don’t want to come out and not be who I know I am as a player…(My) heart racing and just not being nervous and touching the basketball again, and just the rhythm of the game. I missed it.”
Irving also said there was no ill-will between him and the Nets for what has transpired.
Kyrie Irving says he understands the Nets’ initial decision not to allow him to be with the team as a part-time player:
“I knew the consequences. I wasn’t prepared for them by any stretch of the imagination.” pic.twitter.com/osDMavUdwT
— Nets Videos (@SNYNets) December 29, 2021
“I understood their decision and I respected it,” he said.
“I really had to sit back and think and try not to become too emotionally attached. To what they were deciding to do, I had to sit down and really evaluate things and see it from their perspective, meaning the organization and my teammates. I just really empathized and understood their choice to say, ‘If you’re not going to be fully vaccinated, then you can’t be a full participant.’
“I knew the consequences. I wasn’t prepared for them, by no stretch of the imagination. Coming into the season, I had my thought process on being able to be a full-time teammate and go out and have fun and provide a sense of a great brand of basketball out there. But unfortunately, it didn’t happen like that.”
Shaq still has a lot of game. https://t.co/MoQ3HrysKG
— Game 7 (@game7__) December 29, 2021
Irving’s return date is set. It will be interesting to see how he ultimately performs when he is out there.
If the Nets win a title this year thanks to Irving’s contributions, all his early-season woes will be forgotten. If not – don’t be surprised if people wonder whether the team made the right call letting him return.