The Nets superstars reportedly lobbied for the team to bring back unvaccinated Kyrie Irving
- After sitting
Kyrie Irvingfor being unvaccinated, the Nets brought him back in December.
- ESPN's Brian Windhorst said
Kevin Durantand James Hardenhad been lobbying for Irving's return.
The Nets announced in October that they were not allowing Kyrie Irving to play until he could be a full-time participant. Irving has not been vaccinated against COVID-19 and because of New York City's vaccine mandates, isn't allowed to play home games in Brooklyn. Rather than letting Irving only play road games, the Nets said they were going to make him sit out.
However, on December 17, the Nets reversed course, announcing they were going to allow Irving to play road games, despite not getting vaccinated. In their announcement, the Nets cited the number of players who had tested positive for COVID-19 on the team and the need for available players.
On "The Hoop Collective" podcast, ESPN's Brian Windhorst said Durant, Harden, and other Nets players had already been lobbying management to bring Irving back into the fold.
"I know that the Nets said it was related to the COVID outbreak, and maybe they acquiesced at that moment because of the COVID outbreak," Windhorst said. "But the discussions about changing off of their stance started before the Nets roster got into COVID trouble … [The Nets] pivoted. You can use a different verb if you want. They pivoted, I think, because their players, and their star players in particular, made their opinions known on the position.
"If you're going to acquiesce to any player in the country, I can understand why you'd wanna go along with Kevin Durant."
Windhorst also said Harden had been grumbling about his minutes this season and sat out a game in Detroit to get extra rest.
"Looking back, I think that was part of a campaign to the team to say, 'I need some help here,'" Windhorst said.
The Nets got off to a slow start to the season and have battled injuries and COVID up and down the roster. Durant, 33, is averaging 37 minutes per game, his most since the 2013-14 season, something Nets head coach Steve Nash recently said was not sustainable.
Upon returning to the Nets in December, Irving entered the league's health and safety protocols, delaying his return.
Irving is still getting back in playing shape, with a possible return date early January.
Irving spoke to reporters on Wednesday and said he "respected" the Nets' decision in October, though he said he hadn't expected it.
Irving said he was excited to re-join the team, even if it's only on a limited basis.
"If I get the opportunity to get on the court and play with my teammates, even if it is just on the road for away games, I am grateful for the opportunity."
He added: "Not gonna lie, it has been relatively tough to watch from the sideline."
There still may be some awkwardness around Irving's availability, however. The Nets have 24 away games remaining, but two of them are against the New York Knicks, where Irving still won't be allowed to play because of the city's mandates. That leaves only 22 possible games for Irving to play.
The Nets' next two away games are on January 5 and January 12, both of which are sandwiched by home games he won't be allowed to play in.
Still, the team now insists that bringing Irving back on a part-time basis, after a two-month absence, won't affect chemistry.
"I may be a little naive but I think I just keep it really simple," Nash told reporters. "Kyrie plays on the road and we figure out how he rejoins the group, finds his rhythm, and his place in the team and when we come home we're back to normal, the way we've been all year so I'm just trying to keep it really simple"
"Don't over analyze it or complicate it, try to enjoy it and try to put him in a position to succeed and to enjoy what he's doing."
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