Kyrie Irving Returns To Nets, ‘Grateful’ For Opportunity To Play Again

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Kyrie Irving, unvaccinated and yet to play this season, is nearing a return to the court for the Nets.

Irving, 29, has been barred from playing home games at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn due to New York’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate. The Nets haven’t allowed Irving to play on the road as a “part-time” player. He returned to the team Wednesday, fresh out of COVID-19 protocols and talked about the consequences of being unvaccinated.

“I knew the consequences,” Irving said, via NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman. “I wasn’t prepared for them, by no stretch of imagination coming into the season. I had my thought process on being able to be a full-time teammate and go out and have fun and provide a great brand of basketball out there. But unfortunately, it didn’t happen like that. Things happen for a reason and now we’re here and I’m grateful for this.

“Not going to lie. It’s been relatively tough to watch from the sideline. … But if I get the opportunity to get on the court and play with some of my teammates, even if it’s just on the road for away games, I’m grateful for that opportunity.”

The former first overall pick last suited up for the Nets in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on June 13. The six-month hiatus has taken its toll on Irving, who said he’s itching to get back on the court with his teammates.

“When the team approached me, we had a good conversation,” Irving said. “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.

“Being in this environment and playing with the best of the best is where I belong. This is where I’ve worked my entire life to be. So, it was like riding a bike or just being at your first day of school again, just going back out there. And I missed it.”

The Nets haven’t skipped a beat in his absence, 23-9, tops in the Eastern Conference. The duo of James Harden and Kevin Durant have contributed to the Nets’ success, with Durant arguably the frontrunner for the MVP.

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Written by Nick Geddes

Nick Geddes is a 2021 graduate of the University of Central Florida with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism. A life-long sports enthusiast, Nick shares a passion for sports writing and is proud to represent OutKick.

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