WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Kyrie Irving had been unable to play in any of the previous games of the Eastern Conference semifinals due to his lack of vaccinations.
- He was expected to miss seven of his team’s last eight games.
- The vaccination requirements were lifted, allowing him to play for his team on Sunday evening.
On Sunday evening, Brooklyn was alive with activity, and it had nothing to do with the Hornets’ arrival.
The Nets’ star, Kyrie Irving, was greeted with a standing ovation as he was introduced in the home lineup for the first time since Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Bucks on June 7 of last year. Irving has been unable to play in any of the prior games at Barclays Center this season due to a lack of vaccinations, which were subsequently lifted by Mayor Eric Adams last week.
About two hours before tipoff, Irving stepped into the arena and said he felt good to be home.
Before Saturday’s game in Miami, the seven-time All-Star expressed excitement for his long-awaited appearance in Brooklyn, saying he had been “pinching himself” since Adams issued Emergency Executive Order 62 on Thursday, exempting unvaccinated New York City athletes from the COVID-19 vaccine mandates of the city’s private-sector.
Nets coach Steve Nash must have felt the same way as his team nears the end of a disjointed season in which he’s used more than 40 different starting lineups, delivering a 39-35 record — and the Eastern Conference’s No. 8 play-in spot — with eight games remaining starting Sunday.
Before the game, Nash shared that it feels great to have Irving back.
“Obviously the guys have to lock in tonight. We got back [from Miami] at four in the morning and you got to be professional and find it some way. If we get a little added energy from the crowd and from Kyrie’s first game at home, that’d be great, but we can’t rely on that. We’ve got to come with our mentality and our togetherness and play well.”
In 21 road appearances this season, Irving has averaged 27.7 points, including 50 in Charlotte on March 8. Due to the previous mandates, he was expected to miss seven of the Nets’ last eight games. However, as a result of the alterations, Nash will be able to start Irving and Kevin Durant together down the stretch to strengthen the team’s playoff spot.
Ben Simmons, acquired from the 76ers in the James Harden blockbuster at the trade deadline, is yet to make his team debut due to a back injury.
“I’m very hesitant to pretend that [stability] is just going to be the way it is. But it would be great if we could have some continuity here and make the most of these remaining games so that we can put ourselves further along and be more prepared and more cohesion and understanding of our style of play together,” said Nash. “The further we get there, I think it’s paramount for our success or opportunity to play well in the playoffs.
Durant, who has been out with a knee ailment for about two months, also remarked that the Nets must maintain their defensive intensity and that Irving’s improved availability will not be a solution for what has been a difficult regular season.
Source: New York Post