Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving returned to practice on Wednesday after the team decided to activate him back on the team despite his unvaccinated status and New York City mandates barring him from the Barclays Center over it.
The Nets allowed Irving to return with the team, but he immediately went into health and safety protocols. On Wednesday, he was back with the team but admitted he was unprepared for the consequences of what his vaccination status meant.
The Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving moves the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers Sunday, May 16, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)
“I knew the consequences. I wasn’t prepared for them in any stretch of the imagination coming into the season. I had my thought process on being able to be a full-time teammate and just go out and have fun and provide a sense of a great brand of basketball out there. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen like that,” Irving said, via SNY.
Irving can return to the court as early as Jan. 5 when the Nets hit the road to take on the Indiana Pacers. He hasn’t played in a single game this season.
“Not going to lie. It’s been relatively tough to watch from the sideline. … But if I get the opportunity to get on the court and play with some of my teammates, even if it’s just on the road for away games, I’m grateful for that opportunity,” he said.
Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets looks on during the game against the Boston Celtics during Round 1, Game 5 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs on June 1, 2021, at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Brooklyn had been dealing with its own COVID issues.
Kevin Durant, the biggest Nets star to be in health and safety protocols, said it was an easy decision to get Irving back. The team needed help, so the point guard was called upon.
“When the team approached me, we had a good conversation. They said, ‘We want you back,’ and I said, ‘Absolutely.’ This is always where I wanted to be. I wanted to be playing with the team in whatever capacity I can do that,” Irving said.
Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving has been criticized for taking a stand against coronavirus vaccine mandates. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Heading into Thursday, the Nets are No. 1 in the Eastern Conference standings with a 23-9 record.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.