Report: 'Renewed optimism' Kyrie Irving could rejoin Brooklyn Nets this season
There is "renewed optimism" that All-NBA guard Kyrie Irving could rejoin the Brooklyn Nets in some capacity at some point this season, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania. Whatever that means.
Either Kyrie Irving, the Nets organization or the entire city of New York will have to budge for the 29-year-old seven-time All-Star to play for a team that would be a heavy favorite to win a championship with him on it.
Irving has refused to cooperate with the city's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for reasons that remain unclear beyond his desire to be "a voice for the voiceless" who have lost their jobs for failing to meet the mandate. That refusal precludes Irving from playing in Brooklyn. Meanwhile, he has bypassed traditional media to reach his social media following with a mix of cryptic posts and advertisements for his new lifestyle brand.
Rather than allow Irving to join the team for road trips, the Nets decided prior to the season to send him home until he receives a COVID-19 vaccination or the city lifts its mandate. Because the organization opted against him playing half the regular season, Irving is still being paid almost half of his $34.9 million salary.
Outgoing New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an expansion of the city's mandate. Starting Dec. 27, all individuals aged 12 or older attending public gatherings must be fully vaccinated. That means proof of two shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Mayor-elect Eric Adams has said publicly he would revisit that mandate but does not intend to end the mandate that prevents Irving from playing in front of tens of thousands of fans while he is unvaccinated.
"New York City is not going to change their rule," Adams told CNN in early November.
That leaves two options for Irving: Get vaccinated or convince the Nets to let him play road games.
If Irving chose to abandon his anti-vaccination stance today, he could rejoin his teammates two weeks after receiving a Johnson & Johnson vaccine or a month following his first Pfizer or Moderna shot. That would make Irving available mid-January for Brooklyn's final 41 regular season games — exactly half the season.
“We just focus on our group and getting better every single day, and if we get the gift of his return, we'll be ecstatic but we can’t count on it," Nets coach Steve Nash told reporters last week. "We can’t wait for him."
The Nets could choose to take Irving on the road, where they play 27 of their final 50 regular season games, starting with a three-game trip through Portland and Los Angeles from Dec. 23-27 that includes a Christmas Day meeting with the Lakers. Read into Nash deeming Irving's return "a gift" what you will.
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Ben Rohrbach is a staff writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach