It’s looking more and more likely that Kyrie Irving will become a fulltime player before the end of the regular season.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams said Wednesday morning that he "can’t wait" to adjust the city’s vaccine mandate for indoor spaces, including arenas, and suggested a phase-out could arrive "in the next few weeks."
Irving, who is not vaccinated, cannot currently play at the Barclays Center, Madison Square Garden or Toronto. The Nets, who have dropped to eighth place in the Eastern Conference, would love to have their All-Star guard back for as many of their 23 remaining games as possible.
"It’s great. Obviously, it’d be great for us to have Kyrie available for all our games," Nets coach Steve Nash said after being informed of the mayor’s comments after practice on Wednesday. "Having said that, who knows. It’s not really in our control, so we leave it up to the mayor and wait patiently."
Irving is eligible to play in only eight of the Nets’ remaining regular-season games as they have a home-heavy schedule and also play at Toronto and at the Knicks. Irving did practice with the team Wednesday, but was not made available to talk to reporters.
Nash said that you can tell in practice that Irving is excited at the prospect of being able to play fulltime and believes he is ready to do so.
"I will say that he’s been extremely locked in," Nash said. "Kyrie’s been great on the practice floor. He’s been great in film sessions. He’s been creating dialogue over aspects of our play. So I sense a real focus and urgency from him. And so if that’s any indication, I would say he is getting excited at the prospect of being allowed to play in all our games and hopefully in the short term."
Nets general manager Sean Marks told reporters on Tuesday that he believes things are trending the right way far as the team being able to get Irving back on the floor.
"I have to be optimistic, like everybody here. We all know what’s at stake here," Marks said. "If you turn on CNN or BBC or Fox or whatever your flavor is, you see how everything’s changing, right? We’re starting to see a sense of normality getting back to life."
No matter what the mayor does, the Nets will be getting at least one key addition back soon. Kevin Durant, who has been out since spraining his MCL on Jan. 15, practiced fully with the team Wednesday. The Nets have not set a date for his return, but there has been a lot of speculation that he could suit up Saturday when the Nets play at Milwaukee.
NOTES AND QUOTES: Goran Dragic, who signed with the Nets on Monday, practiced fully with the team Wednesday. He said that the Nets were one of six teams he considered joining, but it was the Nets potential and his relationship with Nash that closed the deal. "Steve was my mentor," said Dragic, who was a teammate of Nash’s in Phoenix. It’s only fitting that when I came to the league I played with him and, you never know, to finish my career with him would be awesome."…..Neither Ben Simmons nor Joe Harris practiced Wednesday. Simmons, whom the Nets recently traded for, hasn’t played all season but the team seems encouraged by his progress. It sounds as though Harris isn’t as close to returning. "No clarity on Joe. He is still working through things," Nash said.
Of the 10 teams in the Eastern Conference currently qualifying for postseason play, the Nets — playing without Kyrie Irving at Barclays Center — are the only team with a losing record at home: