This was a major change for the team, which previously said that they wouldn’t allow Irving to work out or play with the team until he was fully vaccinated and able to be a full participant.
With injuries, COVID cases and an inordinate minutes load on their superstar players, the Nets are bringing back Kyrie Irving as a part-time player for games outside of New York, sources told @wojespn. pic.twitter.com/An5vAhrnK6
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 17, 2021
But they changed their tune because of multiple injuries for the team and, ironically, other players being sidelined because of COVID health and safety protocols.
Although Irving is definitely coming back soon, he has a long road to being a full part of the team.
In fact, there are still many challenges ahead for Irving.
Lots Of Testing
According to reports, Irving still has no plans of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine which means that he needs to be prepared for lots and lots of testing.
Current rules require that Irving has to test negative on five successive days before he can rejoin the team.
After his return, he will then need to test every single day because he is unvaccinated.
Any positive test or close contact with someone who received a positive test will sideline Irving.
This has already happened: right after it was announced he was returning, Irving was sent into COVID health and safety protocols after a positive or inconclusive test.
Got some clarity from the Nets: Kyrie Irving would not have entered the health and safety protocols if he was merely testing to return to the team. He has returned a positive or inconclusive test, which requires 5 days of consecutive negative tests for unvaccinated players.
— Kristian Winfield (@Krisplashed) December 18, 2021
Based on what’s happening around the country – and inside the NBA – the chances of this happening multiple times are rather high.
That means that even though Irving is going to play again he might be pulled from rotation again and again as the virus rages through the team and the nation.
Disrupting The Dynamic?
The other roadblock that may await Irving relates to fitting in with the team.
This might sound silly since he has played with these guys before many times but the truth is that the Nets have moved on from him.
Without Irving, the team has found a new dynamic that is working out just fine for them.
The Nets are currently number one in the East with a record of 21-9 and that’s been achieved completely without Irving.
The guard is a star player – one of the best point guards in the league – but right now he doesn’t fit in with what the team is doing and there is a chance that his return will complicate things and mess with the chemistry Kevin Durant and his squad have put together.
This will be especially true since he will only be able to play in away games that aren’t in New York, meaning he will be popping in and out of rotation for the foreseeable future.
It has to be mentioned that Irving is currently not the most popular player in the league.
Many fans are unhappy with his stance on the vaccine because they see it as selfish and short-sighted, while leaving the team high and dry without him.
Just as the team has moved on without him, many in the fan base have also moved on from Irving.
Even if he comes back and performs very well, Irving might be seen as a villain for some time to come.
Irving will be playing for the Nets again soon but it will be in a radically different landscape.