Despite initially saying he wouldn’t be allowed to play part-time, the Nets caved, and Irving, who is unvaccinated against COVID-19, will now just play in road games. The 11th-year veteran will not be allowed to play in any home games for the Nets, nor in any road meetings with the New York Knicks and Toronto Raptors.
So, since his return to the court is 100% happening, which contests will Irving actually be eligible to play in this season? We put together a list of every game fans will be able to watch Uncle Drew play, but it, of course, doesn’t consider any games he could miss due to other reasons outside of being unvaccinated. It also doesn’t consider the possibility of Irving changing his tune and receiving the vaccine.
Kyrie can’t play in New York or Toronto
The whole ordeal with Kyrie Irving this season all started because of the New York City mandate that doesn’t allow him or other unvaccinated NBA players on the Nets or Knicks to play in home games. Brooklyn originally didn’t want Irving — a key part of its Big Three with Kevin Durant and James Harden — to just be a part-time player, so the organization said he wouldn’t be allowed around the team until he was eligible to play in every contest.
However, after the Nets started losing guys to injuries and health and safety protocols, it announced on Dec. 17 that Irving could return to the court and just play on the road. But that’s, of course, not counting any games against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden since the arena is still within New York City limits, nor does it count games in Toronto, as Canada will not allow unvaccinated players to travel into its country starting in January.
Irving failed to return negative tests in five consecutive days following the news of his return, so he entered the league’s health and safety protocols. The seven-time All-Star then cleared it on Dec. 28, though, so he will make his season debut in the near future.
Which Brooklyn Nets games will Kyrie Irving be eligible to play?
After the team announced that Kyrie Irving had cleared protocols, Nets head coach Steve Nash said the guard needed “a week or two” to get ready for game action, per ESPN.
He isn’t eligible to play until Jan. 5, though, which will be right around the one-week mark from him receiving the go-ahead. So, while we don’t know if he will make his debut on Jan. 5 or not, these are all the games Irving is technically allowed to play in this season.
- Jan. 5 at the Indiana Pacers
- Jan. 12 at the Chicago Bulls
- Jan. 17 at the Cleveland Cavaliers
- Jan. 19 at the Washington Wizards
- Jan. 21 at the San Antonio Spurs
- Jan. 23 at the Minnesota Timberwolves
- Jan. 29 at the Golden State Warriors
- Feb. 1 at the Phoenix Suns
- Feb. 2 at the Sacramento Kings
- Feb. 4 at the Utah Jazz
- Feb. 6 at the Denver Nuggets
- Feb. 10 at the Washington Wizards
- Feb. 12 at the Miami Heat
- Feb. 26 at the Milwaukee Bucks
- March 6 at the Boston Celtics
- March 8 at the Charlotte Hornets
- March 10 at the Philadelphia 76ers
- March 15 at the Orlando Magic
- March 23 at the Memphis Grizzlies
- March 26 at the Miami Heat
- April 2 at the Atlanta Hawks
In total, Irving can play in 21 games the rest of the regular season, pending availability due to COVID-19, injury, or other reasons. This, however, also doesn’t count any playoff contests, where he would miss all games in Brooklyn, against the Knicks, and in Toronto if he remains unvaccinated.
What will Kyrie Irving add to the Brooklyn Nets?
Only playing with Kyrie Irving during road games could be a challenging adjustment for Nets players, but he will make the team tremendously better whenever he does play.
Kyrie’s ball-handling abilities make it easy for him to get past any defender and have helped him become an elite scorer. He averaged 26.9 points last season and shot a career-high 50.6% from the field. He is also an excellent 3-point shooter, as he made 40.2% of his long-range attempts last year.
The Duke product will really be really crucial to Brooklyn in the clutch, though. Irving has proven time and time again that his team can rely on him in the biggest moments; just look at his game-winning shot for the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2016 NBA Finals.
All in all, this part-time-player experiment will be an interesting storyline to follow and could become a challenge for the Nets. But Irving will bring a ton of talent to the court and will make Brooklyn the best team in basketball close to 50% of the time.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference
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