Nets forward Kevin Durant drives against Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks during...

Nets forward Kevin Durant drives against Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks during the first half of an NBA game Wednesday in Memphis, Tenn. Credit: AP

MIAMI — Kevin Durant knows it is no coincidence that the vaccine mandate that prevented Kyrie Irving from playing at Barclays Center was lifted just two weeks before Opening Day at Yankee Stadium.

“There’s no crying over spilt milk, but I’m not naïve to the fact that the Mets and the Yankees have a lot of power in our city,” Durant told reporters after practice on Friday. “And I’m sure when they all helped and had conversations with whoever they needed to talk to, they were able to push it over the top.

“Sports is a huge factor in a lot of these major cities. And I’m glad we can get it done for everybody to move forward. I know New York City fans are excited about it.”

Irving will play at Barclays Center for the first time this season on Sunday when the Nets host the Charlotte Hornets. New York City Mayor Eric Adams paved the way for Irving and unvaccinated Yankees and Mets to play at home when he announced the modification of the city’s vaccine mandate on Wednesday in a news conference, tellingly held at Citi Field.

When asked if he thought it was fair for Irving to have missed so many home games this season while unvaccinated baseball players won’t miss an at-bat, Durant said, “Life isn’t fair.”

Irving, who has played in only 20 games this season, has not commented publicly since the mandate was lifted. After fully participating in Friday’s practice, he declined to talk to reporters.

The lifting of the mandate comes at a critical time for the Nets as they make their push toward the playoffs. They are in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, three games behind the Raptors, a half-game ahead of the Hornets and 1 1⁄2 games ahead of the Hawks. They have nine games left, beginning with Saturday’s contest against the Eastern Conference-leading Heat in Miami.

Before the mandate was lifted, Irving would have been able to play in only two of the nine games. The Nets have struggled without Irving at home, posting a 16-19 record.

“Putting a talent like that on the floor, he’s going to score points, he’s also going to create space for others. That helps,” coach Steve Nash said of Irving’s return. “I think we can’t just expect everything to be cleared up. We got to start games better at home, we’ve gotta have more of a winning mentality to start games and finish games at home and play better frankly at home than we have on the road this year.”

Not everyone — especially those who lost their jobs because of the private sector mandate — is thrilled with the mayor making an exception for athletes and entertainers. Durant agrees that the whole situation is “weird.”

“All of it’s weird. COVID is weird. It just came out of nowhere,” he said. “How we reacted to COVID has been where it’s not the perfect situation for anybody. It’s crazy that people lost their jobs based off a vaccine and people that stood on what they believed in and waited this process out, now they’re able to work. It’s a weird situation. Nobody is a winner in none of this stuff.”

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