Kyrie Irving said he could barely sleep the night before his first practice with his Brooklyn Nets teammates last week since being reinstated by the Nets as the two sides agreed that the non-vaccinated player would participate part-time (only road games) in accordance with New York’s COVID safety protocols.
In fact, the prolific point guard looked nervous in the early minutes of his first game back with the Nets since Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Milwaukee Bucks six months ago. He later admitted that he felt like a rookie making his debut.
The Nets trailed the Indiana Pacers by 17 points with 2:27 left in the third quarter, but the “Wizard of West Orange” found his stride in the fourth quarter, scoring 10 of his 22 points to officially swing the momentum en route to a 129-121 Nets victory.
— Dirk Nowobzki (@WorldWideWob) January 6, 2022
The Nets tightened up the D and allowed Kyrie to be the offensive illustrator that has elevated him to superstar status in the game and a player that can call his own shots (no pun intended).
“It felt amazing,” Kyrie said after embracing his father Drederick Irving, a former college basketball star, who was masked up in the stands and present like a king watching his young prince return to the battlefield. “Long time coming. It’s been months, man.”
Kyrie Irving shares a moment with his dad after dropping 22 points in his first game of the season. pic.twitter.com/xCVZd9ygqx
— NBA (@NBA) January 6, 2022
A Long, Exhausting Battle For Everyone
Irving has been at the center of the civil war in this country between the vaccinated and non-vaccinated. He’s a hero to some and a mercurial villain of sorts to others.
That political, medical and philosophical battle played out on the NBA stage with several players at first refusing to get vaccinated and then succumbing to local ordinances in accordance with COVID-19 health and safety protocols. For many it got to be an expensive hill to die on.
Kyrie has remained firm in his refusal to get vaccinated, and the Nets caved in on their initital stance, which was “No vaxx, No stacks.” Because New York city COVID laws prohibit anyone who is unvaccinated from entering crowded public areas and potentially spreading the virus, Kyrie will only participate in road games, because NBA players don’t have to be vaccinated when playing on the road.
Next Kyrie Sighting On Monday
Brooklyn’s next road game is Monday against the Portland Trail Blazers. It’s also the next time we will see Kyrie in uniform. Prior to his return, the sports world speculated as to what kind of effect his part-time attendance would have on the Nets’ chemistry.
That’s still to be determined, but he sure looked comfortable once he got going on Wednesday night against the Pacers. KD and The Beard showed him much love and seemed ecstatic to be back on the hardwood together with him.
“His game is so beautiful,” said Irving’s Brooklyn Nets teammate Kevin Durant, who had a game-high 39 points. “He makes it easier for everybody on the court.”
James Harden’s response to Kyrie’s return?
“It was special.”
— SLAM (@SLAMonline) January 5, 2022
Irving was asked how he thinks the Nets are going to handle this situation going forward and how successful does he think the Nets can be under these circumstances.
“We’re a veteran led group and we know that we can challenge each other a little bit more. Regardless of whos int he lineup. We have guys who can play at a very high level of basketball, play a great brand of basketball and just leave it out there. We have so many people watching and so many people doubting us at the same time. The odds are stacked against us but we want to come out here and put our stamp on every game that we play.”
Perk Doesn’t Mind A Part-Time Killah Ky
Earlier in the day, ESPN’s Kendrick Perkins had a mouthful to offer concerning Kyrie’s return. The former NBA champion says he’s 100 percent supportive of the arrangement that has generated a firestorm of opinions.
“If you look at what Kyrie can do and how he can help, even if it’s on the road…Give me a part-time Kyrie, than a no-time Kyrie. Because I know on the road you need that superstar power. At home you have KD and James Harden so your role players play better at home and you can win home games and get away with not having Kyrie Irving.”
Irving’s star power was felt and opened up opportunities for supporting cast members DeAndre’ Bembry and LaMarcus Aldridge. Perkins says if Kyrie can contribute to a championship all will be forgiven.
“When you look at Kyrie Irving, if he comes back, he’s telling the world that, ‘Hey I do want to play,” Perkins continues. “I do have issues as far as being vaccinated, but I’m here for my brothers. And when you think about Kyrie Irving and what he’s already done for the game of basketball… I mean the guy is the complete package offensively, maybe a Top 5 most-skilled player ever. So for him to come back and help the Brooklyn Nets win a championship, it does everything for Kyrie’s legacy and puts him high up there in the rankings as far as all-time greats.”
The Nets are taking it one game at a time, and we may be looking too far ahead, but a bright spot for the Nets is if they make it to the NBA Finals and it goes seven games then as long as they don’t have home court advantage Kyrie will be availabe for four games. Yes, desperate Nets fans are actually contemplating these scenarios.