Kyrie Irving and the Nets Just Given the Green Light for a Championship Run

It’s been an eventful third year of the Kyrie Irving experiment in NYC.

Due to a New York City mandate that requires a COVID-19 vaccination in order to enter indoor facilities including sports arenas, the Brooklyn Nets kept the guard out for the first 35 games of the season. Ironically, a wave of positive cases within the team led the Nets to bring him back on Jan. 5, where he has exclusively played on the road since.

Thanks to Irving’s part-time availability, Kevin Durant’s injury, and James Harden’s trade demand, the Nets haven’t been able to reach their potential at any point during their shaky 2021-22 campaign. However, the Big Apple will soon give Kyrie and the rest of a franchise the OK to go all-in on winning a championship.

New York City plans to roll back its vaccine mandate, allowing Kyrie Irving to play at home

Of Brooklyn’s 23 remaining games, 13 of them are at home. Factoring in road matchups against the New York Knicks and Toronto Raptors, Irving is only eligible to suit up eight more times for the eight-seed Nets.

Thought now that number may rise if Eric Adams, New York City’s mayor, has anything to say about it. Adams told the media on Wednesday that he “can’t wait” to roll back the city’s strict vaccine mandate.

“Every morning I meet with my health professionals because I always say I’m going to follow the science,” Adams said courtesy of NJ.com. “I’m not going to get ahead of the science because I’m ready to get ahead of all of this and get back to a level of normalcy. But they’re giving us clear instructions. They gave us benchmarks, we’re going to follow those benchmarks. But I look forward to the next weeks going through a real transformation where I don’t have to wonder what you look like … We’re moving in the right direction. We’re going to do it in a safe way.”

The slow departure from the vaccine mandate would affect many, including Irving. This would mean the Nets star could play at home sometime within the next few weeks.

Irving, 29, has remained firm in his decision to remain unvaccinated. He recently told Nick Friedell of ESPN that he feels no guilt about being unavailable for half of his team’s games.

“There’s no guilt that I feel,” Irving said. “I’m the only player that has to deal with this in New York City because I play there. If I was anywhere else in another city then it probably wouldn’t be the same circumstances. But because I’m there, we have [mayor] Eric Adams, we have the New York mandate, we have things going on that are real-life circumstances that are not just affecting me, bro. So you ask me these questions, I don’t feel guilt.”

A full-time Irving makes the Nets a title favorite once again

Adams didn’t offer a specific date for when the mandate would be lifted. But it’s encouraging to know there’s a good chance Irving makes his way back for at least some of Brooklyn’s home games.

Not only that, but a full-time Kyrie also makes the Nets a significant threat in any seven-game playoff series.

Even through all the hardships, Brooklyn was in the mix for the one-seed at this time last month. But thanks to Durant’s MCL sprain, Harden’s trade demand, and constant lineup adjustments for Irving, the Nets spiraled down the Eastern Conference standings to finish 31-28 at the All-Star break.

When he’s on the court, Kyrie has looked like the All-Star he was with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics. The 11-year veteran is averaging 24.1 points on 45.2% shooting, and that’s with a three-ball falling less than normal. Now imagine him playing every game with Durant, who is on track to return in the next couple of weeks, as well as new acquisition Ben Simmons, the former Philadelphia 76ers star who’s inching closer toward his season debut.

Factor in the hopeful return of elite shooter Joe Harris, and suddenly Brooklyn has all four of its best players back on the court. Good luck to the rest of the East.

Kyrie Irving ultimately got his wish

Before Irving came back on a part-time basis, he and the Nets were in a game of chicken. The Nets threatened to keep Kyrie away from the team until he received the vaccine, while Irving was willing to wait until they changed their minds.

After Brooklyn rescinded its rule, Kyrie managed to get back on the court and will soon become a full-time player again. All without taking a single dose of the vaccine.

The Nets certainly have to be disappointed that Irving will wind up missing the vast majority of the season by his own doing. Especially since there’s a good chance they’ll wind up on the road in any playoff series they’re in.

Who knows what their record would be if he simply took the shot? Heck, maybe Harden would’ve wanted to stick around if he did so, giving Brooklyn the big three it thought it was getting last year.

Nevertheless, all signs are pointing to Irving getting his way without an ounce of compromise. However, he can easily make things right with the Nets by joining Durant and Simmons in delivering a title to Brooklyn.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “More than 520 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been given in the United States from December 14, 2020, through January 10, 2022. … COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.”

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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