The Last Time An NBA Team Had A Part-Time Player Was 1962 | Examining How The Kyrie Situation Will Work In BK

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Brooklyn Nets’ star Kyrie Irving returned to practice for the first time since training camp on Wednesday, Dec. 29. Irving missed the first 32 games of the season for refusing to comply with the New York City COVID-19 vaccine mandate. At the time the team did not want a part-time player, but surging COVID-19 cases and roster fluctuation has changed all that.

The question now is, how will a part-time player work?

The last time an NBA team had a part-time player was 1962. That was 59 years ago, under very different circumstances.

Irving is a multiple time All-NBA and All-Star caliber player in the prime of his career on a team with title aspirations. But he remains unvaccinated and can only play in road games with the exception of NYC (Knicks) and Toronto (Raptors) due to vaccine mandates.

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Dealing with flux is something head coach Steve Nash has gotten very accustomed to in his first two seasons in Brooklyn. Why would this be any different?

“We’ve had a million different things happen in the last 12, 13, 14 months, so it’s no big deal to me,” Nash said. “I think it’s a great problem to have to navigate this and figure this out. … You can’t play everyone. And then trying to figure out lineups, all those variables, home and away and all that stuff. Great. Let’s take it head-on, and let’s try to make the most of it and enjoy it, and we’ll have to have some buy-in from the players where they say look, there’s a lot of tough decisions here. Sometimes the decision doesn’t fall your way, but you’ve got to stick with it with the bigger picture in mind.”

Nash by nature is an optimistic individual, and his temperament fits for this kind of situation. Imagine Tom Thibodeau or Rick Carlisle trying to manage this? Likely wouldn’t go so well.

Nash will use the regular season as a lab to experiment what two different teams would look like. Come playoffs, it could prove to be a tactic that frustrates opponents.

Think of the Nets as a team with two different identities. One with two stars and a high pick-and-roll style. The other a three star offensive supernova with off ball movement, cutting and backscreens. Having to prepare to face a team like that in a seven-game playoff series will be uncomfortable.

Fans and media talking heads are split over this. FS1’s Chris Broussard and Nick Wright are on opposing sides, with the former believing it will work and the latter stating it won’t.

Regardless of Irving’s stance on vaccines, he does enjoy the game of basketball and missed being a part of the team.

“There was just a lot of uncertainty, a lot of what ifs, a lot of scenarios,” Irving said. “It’s hard not to pay attention to what was being said about the circumstances that we’re under and everybody’s opinion on it. I just tried to stay grounded, to stay connected with the team, engaged, and just waiting for the time or the chance when things kind of settled down. I don’t even know if ‘settled down’ is the right phrase to be using with everybody testing positive and just what’s going on. 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’s fellow teammates are all saying the right things publicly. They all know what he brings when he’s on the floor and that in whatever capacity gets them closer to the ultimate goal. A championship.

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His return would also allow Nash to give superstars Kevin Durant and James Harden strategic rest throughout the remainder of the season. It would also allow Irving to play with some of his younger teammates, and get acclimated with their game IQ, etc.

Of course it could all go poorly too and Irving’s return could screw up the chemistry that has led to the best record in the Eastern Conference. Plus potentially missing four home games each playoff series, despite having two different lineups could prove detrimental.

That part’s doubtful.

If only because Nash, Durant and Harden can keep the ship steady both on and off the floor should any rockiness occur.

But as Nash said, it’s going to take buy in from everyone on the team. This is an unusual situation, but it doesn’t mean it can’t work. If the ultimate goal is to win it all, sacrifices will have to be made.

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