Kyrie Irving, whose team said he would not play for them until he was vaccinated, is about to suit up for his team without being vaccinated. Seven Brooklyn Nets players entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols in the past two days, leaving them with so few healthy bodies that they’ve chosen to reactivate Irving as an emergency. He can only be used for some away games.
In Thursday night’s win over the 76ers, Kevin Durant had to play 39 minutes, coming off 48 minutes in Tuesday’s overtime win, and Brooklyn had to field four rookies. Even as the Nets have been stretched thin, Irving has remained steadfast in his refusal to get vaccinated. Now that the team desperately needs him, he’s won his power struggle and will get to take the court on his terms. Well, not all that often. As an explicit part-time player, Irving will only be available for road games, and even then, only in cities that don’t have indoor vaccine mandates. Of the Nets’ next nine games, six are at home, meaning Irving’s actual utility to his hollowed-out team will be three games, including a Christmas Day matchup with the Lakers (the Los Angeles vaccine mandate doesn’t apply to visiting players). Now that the Nets have created a precedent, Irving might just be a road player for them, even after the roster recovers.
This all assumes that Irving, who will have to get tested daily as part of a team with an outbreak, doesn’t end up in health and safety protocols as he travels to the games. He’d have a better chance of not doing so if he were—well, you know.