Head Coach Steve Nash of the Nets reacts during the...

Head Coach Steve Nash of the Nets reacts during the second half against the Atlanta Hawks at State Farm Arena on December 10, 2021 in Atlanta. Credit: Getty Images/Todd Kirkland

The reality of the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the Nets, the NBA and all sports organizations, really, like a punch in the mouth. As inspiring as it might have been for the Nets to play with the minimum allowed eight-man roster to score an overtime win over Toronto on Tuesday night after previously losing seven players to health and safety protocols, the fact is that was just the tip of the iceberg, the new normal.

Starting with their game against the 76ers Thursday night at Barclays Center, the Nets were scheduled to play three games in four days and four in six days to end their five-game homestand before taking a West Coast trip that would require another three games in a five-day span. They boosted their roster to nine healthy bodies by signing veteran Langston Galloway to a 10-day contract on Thursday, but there’s no denying the exceedingly thin margin for error facing the Nets.

Only the fact that superstar Kevin Durant decided to play what turned out to be a 48-minute stint on a sore right ankle prevented them from becoming the second team in the NBA to be forced to postpone a game this season behind the Bulls, who postponed two because of a manpower shortage.

Asked on Tuesday about the rolling tidal wave of infections across the country because of the Delta and Omicron COVID variants, Nets coach Steve Nash said, "It’s the new normal, but it’s scary. I don’t know that there’s an end in sight. This is the kind of world we may live in indefinitely. We’ve all been affected by this. I’ve lost family members.

"The day-to-day life, even if you haven’t lost people, has changed and may not go back to what it was indefinitely. I’m just concerned for the approach to the unknown…That becomes very difficult. I just hope we can continue to find commonality with the approach and protect as many people as possible and put health and safety as high as we possibly can without people completely losing their mental health. That’s a tough balance to find."

The Nets have been dealing with such real-world problems since training camp when they were surprised to learn that superstar Kyrie Irving decided not to comply with New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. That meant he is ineligible to play 41 home games at Barclays Center and two more at Madison Square Garden. Rather than allow him to become a part-time player in road games, the Nets’ organization decided not to allow him to play or practice until he is fully eligible for all games.

Despite reports Irving might return soon and Irving’s own Instagram post of him lacing up his shoes, Nash on Tuesday said the Nets’ stance has not changed. "The boundaries are the same as before the recent reports," Nash said.

And that was after Paul Millsap entered health and safety protocols on Monday and was followed by James Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre’Bembry, Bruce Brown, Jevon Carter and James Johnson. All must quarantine 10 days, or record two negative COVID tests within 24 hours of each other to return. Barring a miracle, the Nets will be shorthanded for the next five games, before the Christmas Day date at the Lakers.

So Nash will be scrambling to put a lineup on the floor. "I try not to get too up and down about it," Nash said. "Just let all the information come in, kind of get a handle on what’s coming down the pipeline and what decisions will have to be made and just be calm.

"As far as the coaches, our attitude was let’s pump these guys up. Let’s show them we’re going to have a great time regardless of who’s in the lineup and who’s not."

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