Kevin Durant will reunite with Kyrie Irving on the court on Sunday afternoon for the first time since Jan. 12 as the Nets visit the Boston Celtics in a nationally televised game.
The Nets will also have coach Steve Nash back. Nash has missed the last three games after being placed in the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols on Monday.
Durant and Irving will play together again on Tuesday in Charlotte and Thursday in Philadelphia.
The next five days should help the Nets see what they have with their dynamic duo. The three games will be an important peek at how the team could stack up in the Eastern Conference playoffs, assuming the Nets make it and Irving is eventually allowed to play in home games.
That latter part is still no sure thing.
Mayor Eric Adams on Friday announced the lifting of New York City’s indoor COVID-19 vaccine mandate beginning on Monday. But if you think that will allow the unvaccinated Irving to play at Barclays Center, think again.
With Monday’s changes, Irving can sit in the stands at a Nets home game. He can dine in any restaurant in the city or go to a museum or a Broadway show.
But, unlike unvaccinated visiting players, Irving cannot play in the games. Not yet.
Since Adams is not lifting the so-called "private sector mandate," as an employee of a New York City business Irving will still be banned from playing at Barclays or in next Sunday’s game against the Knicks at the Garden.
Asked on Friday about the prospects of lifting the private sector mandate, Adams said: "Not at this moment. It’s part of our continuation of releasing [restrictions] as the better and better we get with these numbers. Not at this moment."
When asked whether any of the changes to the COVID rules that go into effect on Monday would allow Irving to play, Adams said: "Under existing rules, he cannot."
Durant played in his first game in 47 days after a knee injury on Thursday, scoring 31 points in the Nets’ 113-107 home loss to Miami. It was Durant’s first opportunity to play with recent acquisitions Seth Curry, Goran Dragic and Andre Drummond.
"[They] provide such a different dynamic of being guys that get to the paint, that can knock down mid-range shots and threes," Durant said. "So it's only going to get better going forward."
The Nets started Saturday in eighth place in the East standings. With Ben Simmons still weeks away from his season and Nets debut because of a back injury and Irving still a part-time player, there isn’t a lot of time to build that all-important chemistry.
"It can take one game. It can take 20 games," Durant said. "It’s just a matter of actually getting out there and seeing what works for us. But it’s not like it’s a certain formula or criteria that goes into how . . . you build chemistry."