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James Harden and Kyrie Irving excited to play in front of Nets fans

Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets drives the

Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets drives the Indiana Pacers during their game at the Barclays Center on February 10, 2021. Credit: Getty Images/Al Bello

It is just so "Nets" that when they build the Big 3 of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden and put together a franchise-best 5-0 West Coast road trip and fan involvement should be at an all-time high, it all happens within the confines of a pandemic that has forced them to play without home fans.

But that will begin to change when the Nets (20-12), who have won six straight games, face the Kings (12-18), who are on a seven-game losing streak, on Tuesday night at Barclays Center. New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo recently loosened COVID-19 medical protocols to permit arenas that seat at least 10,000 to allow fans at up to 10% capacity.

Barclays Center seats 17,732 for basketball, but a team spokesman indicated the Nets will take a cautious approach by allowing just 300 fans, all of whom must test negative for COVID-19 as a condition of admission for the Kings game. Approximately 200 fans will be seated in the lower bowl and the remaining fans will be in the luxury suites.

"I can’t wait. I’m excited," Harden said after scoring 37 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing eight assists in the Nets’ win over the Clippers on Sunday night in Los Angeles. "That’s one of the reasons I wanted to be in Brooklyn was because of the fan base. They’re unbelievable. They know the game of basketball. They’re true, true fans.

 

"It’s not obviously going to be packed, but just to have some excitement, some extra energy in the crowd, it’s going to be exciting for the entire team. We can’t wait. It’s been a long road trip, a very good road trip, and now we’ve got to get home and have some fun."

Kyrie Irving, who added 28 points and eight assists and teamed brilliantly with Harden throughout the trip, also welcomed the return of fans. Irving expanded his focus to the bigger picture affecting the whole of society in these difficult times, citing the "unfortunate" COVID death toll that just crossed the 500,000 plateau and wishing "peace and blessings" to everyone affected.

"It’s a different reality for all of us," he said. "It’s been taking some time to get used to, and inviting some fans back in, I feel like it does great things for the league. It does great things for us in terms of motivation. They’re a big part of what makes this whole game run.

"We have an opportunity to set a mark in history making sure we take the right safety precautions, making sure we’re standing on . . . the truth, giving people the right information.

"If fans get a chance to see us play, I want to make sure I put on a show for them and then go out and continue to change the world the best way I know how with other people who want to do the same. I’m excited. I just pray everyone stays safe, making sure you wear your mask, making sure you wash your hands, making sure you’re taking all the precautions. Let’s make sure we handle this together."

Notes & quotes: Kevin Durant (left hamstring strain) was ruled out of his fifth straight game. Jeff Green (right shoulder contusion) and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (right hip contusion) are listed as questionable and Tyler Johnson (left adductor tightness) and Iman Shumpert (left hamstring strain) are probable . . . Harden was named Eastern Conference player of the week.

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