Kyrie Irving is enjoying it – a crowd is excited about her return, and her belief that she has won the fight she is currently fighting against vaccine orders. When asked about the game, after Sunday night’s 119-110 loss to the Charlotte Hornets, he smiled.
He called it “historic” – to play for the Nets in Brooklyn. She said she tries to stay strong as she prepares for the warm welcome she will receive.
“I can’t take for granted what happened tonight,” Irving said.
Just in time for baseball season, and for the NBA playoffs, New York City has created an exception to its private-sector coronavirus vaccine mandate that allows local athletes and performers to work in the city regardless of their status. vaccination. That announcement on Thursday means Irving, who has refused to be vaccinated against Covid-19, will finally be able to play at home.
“Now we can move on,” Irving said. “Now that everyone can move on, especially in the locker room. Limited distractions, no fear. In the next game we will be even better. ”
His team, which started the season with championship expectations, is now fighting for a playoff spot. Irving’s return could give the Nets strength, finally, after a season usually without it. But in his first game back at Barclays Center, the Nets lost, and it’s time for them to develop the unity they need to run this postseason.
“This is the situation we’re in,” forward Kevin Durant said. “Bow our heads and go to work. I mean, you know, it’s a challenge. Everyone will go through challenges this season as a team. This is what is before us. ”
It’s been nearly 10 months since Irving played in the Nets ’home arena. On Sunday night, a crowd of 18,166 people – a record number for a Nets game at the Barclays Center – praised him.
Before the game, a fan shown on the video board simply shouted, “Kyrie,” stretching the final vowel. Irving got the loudest cheer of any player when the starting lineups were introduced.
Before the tipoff, he stood with the Nets logo in midcourt with the scoreboard camera on him. The fans roared and Irving pointed at them, turning to identify each side of the arena.
“It was great to see him there,” Durant said. “It’s good to see the fans excited for him.”
Once the Covid-19 vaccines were in use, the NBA created separate protocols, making it easier for players who received the vaccine to stay active and participate in team activities. Although New York City law, and the NBA’s insistence that teams follow local guidelines, prevented Irving from playing at home, he was allowed to play on the road while observing stricter rules. test protocol.
The Nets initially said they were not interested in a part-time participant, but changed their mind. Since Jan. 5, Irving has been a part-time player, suitable for road games.
His stance against getting a coronavirus vaccine is not uncommon in the league. The NBA and the players ’union now say 97 percent of players have been vaccinated and 75 percent have received a booster shot against the disease that has caused more than 40,000 deaths in New York City.
Recently, as the town began lifting bans, Irving’s teammates began scrambling for his return for home games. Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner, said the law is unreasonable because it allows unvaccinated players to play on visiting teams.
On Thursday, doubtful that the baseball season was about to begin, New York Mayor Eric Adams announced an exception for local athletes and performers, setting up Irving’s Barclays debut.
“It’s not just the talent that Kyrie has, it’s the continuity that she gives to playing at home,” Coach Steve Nash said. “But the number of minutes and the amount of workload that men have to do when he’s not here.”
His debut date was not good. The Nets returned just before dawn on Sunday after playing Saturday night in Miami.
Irving missed his first five shots and was 6-for 22, but that didn’t dampen people’s vocal appreciation of him.
“You feel, kind of, anticipation,” Irving said.
He only made two of his first 17 shots, but was more efficient in the fourth quarter, making three consecutive shots to tie the game at 104. He was fouled on his next try, and when he stood in line, the crowd sang his name.
Earlier this season, even without Irving, the Nets entered the top quarter of the conference, where both Durant and James Harden contributed wins. But they lost Durant for 21 consecutive games due to a knee injury. Harden was traded to Philadelphia in February for Ben Simmons, who has yet to play for the Nets.
There are only seven regular season games left for the Nets. They are now tied for eighth in the Eastern Conference and will be ranked ninth in the tiebreakers when the season ends today. That’s a seeding position that requires them to win two play-in games just to get into the playoffs.
Nash noted that the Nets may already have a starting five they can count on for the rest of the season. She smiled as she approached the proposal.
“We were very hesitant to pretend that was the case,” he said.
Their time wasn’t too strong for Nash to rely on that.