Thanks to a change in the way New York City’s vaccine mandate is applied, Kyrie Irving was allowed to practice with the Nets for the first time Sunday at their Brooklyn training facility. Although he is not allowed to play in home games, it was anticipated Irving would play Monday night in Philadelphia because that was his only remaining chance for preseason action, but that isn’t happening.
Coach Steve Nash made a stunning post-practice announcement that Irving would not accompany the team to Philadelphia. That means Irving not only won’t play in the preseason, because he is ineligible for Thursday’s home game against Minnesota. Since he now is a part-time player, there is some question about his starting role in road games and whether he even will appear in the regular-season opener Oct. 19 in Milwaukee.
Irving has not discussed his vaccination status, but he missed all three practices last week in New York, which has a local COVID-19 mandate prohibiting unvaccinated people over the age of 12 from entering public venues. Late Friday afternoon, the city ruled the Nets’ HSS training facility is a private office building exempt from the mandate, and the Nets confirmed that change made it possible for Irving to practice.
"He worked out today, he got his shots, he lifted weights and took part in practice," Nash said. "We’ll continue to build up his conditioning, and it was great to have him back on the floor. He was cleared for everything, so he was out there and took part."
But when asked if Irving would play against the 76ers, Nash unveiled the Nets’ surprise decision. "No," Nash said. "He’s not going to travel to Philly. But it was great to have him back on the floor, we’ll keep building him up and see how things go. But we haven’t made any firm decisions on anything right now."
The sudden news on Friday that Irving could return to practice might not have allowed him time to regain the conditioning he needs to play. But when Nash was asked what that means for Irving’s availability in the regular-season opener against the defending NBA champion Bucks, he had no definitive answer.
"We’ll see," Nash said. "We don’t know. We’ll see how it goes here this week."
Of the 652 career NBA regular-season and playoff games in which Irving has appeared, he has started all 652. But when asked if Irving’s role might be reduced and he might come off the bench, Nash didn’t flinch.
"It’s possible, yeah," Nash said. "We’ll see. We haven’t really got there yet. I think we’re still trying to process all of the possibilities. That might take us some time to see where his body is at. No one has ever done that before…I wouldn’t know what precedents there are and what’s the best way to do it. We’re really trying to navigate it as we go."
The personal issue that prevents Irving from playing games in New York has forced the Nets to adjust, and it now seems Irving might have to adjust to a different role when he is eligible to play.
"I think we recognize he’s not playing home games," Nash said. "So we’re going to have to for sure play without him this year. So it just depends on when, where and how much."
Notes & quotes: Paul Millsap, who missed Friday night’s game against the Bucks because of health and safety protocols, has returned and is eligible to play against the 76ers . . . Devontae Cacok (right groin soreness) is out in Philadelphia . . . The Nets waived Edmond Sumner, who was acquired from the Pacers in an Oct. 6 trade . . . The Nets signed guards Bryce Brown and Josh Gray, who are expected to be waived and signed to Exhibit 10 contracts to play with the Long Island Nets.