Kyrie Irving back in action as Nets hit road to face Warriors

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·3 min read
Brooklyn Nets' Kyrie Irving (11) drives against Cleveland Cavaliers' Brandon Goodwin (26) in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
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Kyrie Irving will take his unvaccinated COVID status in front of what is expected to be an unsympathetic audience when the Brooklyn Nets visit the Golden State Warriors for a nationally televised game Saturday night in San Francisco.

Irving has led the Nets to four wins in seven games since agreeing on Jan. 5 to join the Nets for only road games. He's averaged 23.4 points in those games, including 27.8 on 52.9 percent shooting in his last four outings.

Irving is prohibited by New York City law from participating in home games due to his unwillingness to get a COVID vaccine.

He likewise would not be allowed to play home games for the Warriors if San Francisco were his home base, but those restrictions do not apply to visiting players at Chase Center.

Rather, Irving, like all other Warriors guests, must abide by a set of rules that include proof of negative COVID test taken within 48 hours of the event, mandatory wearing of a mask at all times except when in the game, and minimum of six feet separation from all spectators.

By San Francisco law, no spectator will be allowed to attend the game without proof of vaccination.

Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins, voted this week to his first All-Star team, was prevented from practicing with the team at the beginning of training camp until he got vaccinated. He chose to get the shots, which have allowed him to participate in 25 of the 27 home games so far, with his two absences due to having entered COVID protocols in December.

The spotlight has shifted onto Irving in part because teammate Kevin Durant, a two-time champion with the Warriors, won't be able to face his old team because of a sprained MCL in his left knee. He has missed the Nets' last six games and remains questionable to participate in the Feb. 20 All-Star Game despite being voted a captain by the fans.

The Nets have lost four of the six games in Durant's absence, including the last two at home with Irving also not available. Brooklyn coach Steve Nash also chose to rest James Harden (hamstring) during a 124-118 loss to the Denver Nuggets in the Nets' most recent action on Wednesday.

Harden has been ruled out for this game, too, with a right hand strain.

"The goal is to continue to move this thing forward," Nash said of his depleted roster after the Denver loss, in which rookie Cam Thomas' 25 points couldn't prevent a third straight defeat.

"Win or lose, are we learning more about ourselves? More about each other and refining our details? If we do, when we get bodies back, we'll be in a better place for it and we'll be able to say that this time was not wasted."

The Nets and Warriors met Nov. 16 in Brooklyn. Golden State won 117-99 in a game in which Harden had 24 points and Durant 19. Irving was prohibited from playing.

Stephen Curry exploded for 37 points with nine 3-pointers and Wiggins chipped in with 19 in the win.

Curry (six), Wiggins (five) and Klay Thompson (five) combined for 16 3-pointers when the Warriors won a fourth straight by beating the Minnesota Timberwolves 124-115 at home on Thursday night. Curry finished with 29 points, Wiggins 19 and Thompson 23 in his highest-scoring performance since making his season debut Jan. 9.

"It is fun playing with those guys," Wiggins gushed afterward. "They are special; the NBA has never seen people that can shoot like them. The energy that they bring to the team, the building ... everyone just feeds off of them."

--Field Level Media