Nets GM Sean Marks explains decision to play Kyrie Irving part-time: 'The overall environment has changed'

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Kyrie Irving defended by Celtics alt uniform
Kyrie Irving defended by Celtics alt uniform

Nets general manager Sean Marks met with members of the media on Saturday afternoon, less than 24 hours after the team announced that guard Kyrie Irving would be welcomed back as a part-time player.

The Nets originally decided that Irving would not play in any games, home or away, or practice with the team until he was vaccinated and could be a full-time player under the New York City vaccine mandate.

So why change course now?

“The overall environment has changed, as we all know, drastically,” It’s changed not only for the Nets, it’s changed from our staff perspective, it’s changed from our players’ perspective, it’s changed from what’s happening outside of Barclays. I walked to the arena today and there’s several lines out there for COVID testing and there’s 200, 300 people waiting in line to be tested. The environment has changed. COVID has done a number on the team and on society in general. That certainly changed.

“Managing our own player load, that’s something that we’ve got to be aware of through the course of the season. We’ve seen the large minutes that our guys have had to endure and play, and we’ve got to look at what’s best for the team over the course of the season.”

But Marks also said that the plan all along was for the Nets to remain as flexible and adaptable as possible, and the best interest of the team has always remained at the forefront.

“What hasn’t changed is our team, our staff, our front office, coaching staff and the players’ ability to collaborate and evolve with changing circumstances and that’s exactly what you’re dealing with here,” Marks said. “Several months ago we made a decision based on what was best for the team. What was best for the team at that point was continuity. I think we all see that continuity right now over the course of the next week and whatever the future looks like, might be out the window for a while, and we’ve got to navigate that as best we can.”

Marks said he hasn’t spoken to Irving about his vaccination status, but the team is ready to “navigate this as best we can.”

Coming into play on Saturday night, the Nets own the best record in the East at 21-8. Irving is currently in the league’s healthy and safety protocols and will need to test negative five times before joining the club, but once he does, Marks believes there will be no distractions.

“I think we take some of these positives and we try to build off of them,” Marks said. “Kyrie’s been watching our games, we’ve talked to him about the games, the outcomes, and he’s been weighing in on them as well. So, it’s great to see. I’m not concerned about the negative impact.

“I’m not going into this thinking ‘what if, what if?’ When you have an opportunity to add a player like this at a juncture like this when dealing with, again, unforeseen circumstances, we’re trying to pivot and be as flexible as we can during this moment of time. And again, the decision’s being made for what’s best for the team right now.”