Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant reacts after sinking a three-point...

Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant reacts after sinking a three-point basket against the Philadelphia 76ers in the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game at Barclays Center on Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Well, that didn’t take long.

One day after the Nets announced they will permit Kyrie Irving to return as an unvaccinated part-time player in road games, the other shoe dropped when they announced he had become the ninth member of the Nets to enter NBA health and safety protocols after either testing positive for COVID-19, returning an inconclusive test as a result of contact tracing because he is unvaccinated.

The eighth player announced just before noon on Saturday was superstar and leading MVP candidate Kevin Durant. That came as devastating news. The Nets previously planned to rest Durant against the Magic on Saturday night at Barclays Center because of right ankle soreness and the heavy workload he has been carrying, including an average of 40.5 minutes over his previous 11 games.

But the fact he must enter health and safety protocols has more far-reaching repercussions. That means Durant, who leads the NBA in scoring with a 29.7 average, likely will be out for the 10-day quarantine period unless he returns two negative COVID tests in a 24-hour time from before it ends. The same holds true for Irving.

Counting the Magic game, Durant is expected to miss the next six games, including a three-game West Coast trip that begins Thursday in Portland before moving to Los Angeles for a Christmas Day encounter with the Lakers followed by a Dec. 27 date with the Clippers.

Of course, Irving is ineligible for all home games plus two visits to Madison Square Garden because he is in violation of the New York City vaccine mandate. The Portland game originally was the first one for which he would have been eligible to play.

All that now has changed. Because he entered health and safety protocols on Dec. 18, Irving likely will not be eligible until Dec. 28, which is the day after the Nets end their road trip against the Clippers. They play seven of their next nine games at home. The two road games are Jan. 5 at Indiana and Jan. 12 at Chicago, meaning Irving will be eligible to play just two of the next 15 games at best starting with Saturday night’s game against the Magic.

Durant previously tested positive for COVID-19 in March 2020 while he was rehabbing from Achilles tendon surgery, and he missed four games last season after coming in contact with another person who had COVID.

Other Nets in health and safety protocols include starters James Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge and DeAndre’ Bembry and backups Bruce Brown, Jevon Carter, James Johnson and Paul Millsap, all of whom should be able to return in time to face the Lakers unless they continue to test positive.

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