Planned changes to New York's vaccine mandates might be a step toward Kyrie Irving playing home games. But they're not expected to clear his path.
New York Mayor Eric Adams announced on Sunday that the city will roll back vaccine requirements for "indoor dining, fitness and entertainment venues" on March 7 provided that the rate of COVID-19 cases "continues to go down."
New York City’s #COVID numbers continue to go down.
So long as our indicators show a low level of risk and we see no surprises this week, on Monday, March 7 we will also remove the vaccination requirements for Key2NYC — meaning indoor dining, fitness and entertainment venues.
— Mayor Eric Adams (@NYCMayor) February 27, 2022
The announcement arrived amid a broader loosening of COVID-19 restrictions attributed to a decline in new daily cases nationwide. While Adams' planned rollback of mandates apparently would allow Irving access to the Barclays Center as a spectator, it appears that it would not clear the way for him to play home games for the Brooklyn Nets.
Report: 'Private sector mandate' still applies to Irving
The Athletic's Shams Charania reports that a "private sector mandate" not covered by Adams' proclamation would still prohibit Irving from suiting up. Adams didn't address the "private sector mandate" in his Sunday statement. He did announce a similar track to remove mask mandates from schools starting March 7 and has previously vowed a return to "normalcy" from COVID restrictions.
Will Irving play in Brooklyn this season?
Irving has been barred from playing home games because he doesn't comply with the city's mandates requiring attendees and participants at entertainment venues to be vaccinated. Irving is allowed to play in most NBA road arenas, and the Nets agreed to let him play part time in December. Since then, he's played in 15 games, averaging 25.1 points, 5.3 assists and 4.8 rebounds.
The 32-29 Nets are in eighth place in the East amid a tumultuous season that's included the lengthy injury absence of Kevin Durant and the trade of James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers in a package that returned Ben Simmons. Durant and Simmons remain sidelined while Irving continues to play part time. The Nets hope to have Durant and Simmons in time to prepare for the playoffs that start April 16. Irving's presence at home games would also be welcome news for the Nets.
As things stand, the Nets aren't guaranteed a postseason berth. They'd have to advance through the league's play-in round to get into the playoffs unless they secure a top-six seed.