Kyrie Irving breaks silence on Nets return after exile

In his first public comments since rejoining the team, Kyrie Irving sounded excited, rather than resigned, to be a part-time player.

The Nets are welcoming back their unvaccinated point guard and choosing any players who can help over any semblance of cohesion, feeling continuity might be impossible anyway because of the strain COVID-19 has taken upon the team.

Irving practiced Wednesday with his teammates for the first time since early October, a light day for the others but a significant one for the third of the Nets’ superstars.

Irving did not signal any willingness to join his vaccinated teammates in getting jabbed but was thrilled to join the team regardless.

“I knew the consequences. I wasn’t prepared for them, by no stretch of the imagination,” said Irving, who will only play road games because of the New York City mandate. “Coming into the season, I had my thought process of being able to be a full-time teammate and just 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 just grateful for this.”

The Nets brought Kyrie Irving back to play in road games, as the unvaccinated guard isn’t allowed to play in New York City.
Corey Sipkin

The earliest he can debut this season is Jan. 5 in Indiana, though he will have to get his body ready first – and the fact he just exited the COVID-19 protocols will not help his conditioning.

Irving said he has been working out in middle-school and college gyms over the past few months, but Wednesday was his first day facing NBA talent again.

“He looks great considering he just came out of protocols and hasn’t played basketball,” coach Steve Nash said. “How does he recover from today? How many high-intensity [practices] does he need to feel comfortable, confident from a personal standpoint? … I couldn’t give you an answer.”

Kyrie Irving Nets
Kyrie Irving (r.) practicing with Kevin Durant (l.) and the Nets on Oct. 9 before the team said it wouldn’t use Irving as a part-time player.
Corey Sipkin

Without Irving, the Nets might have had a championship roster anyway and one that is in first in the Eastern Conference. With Irving, even half the time, they immediately become title favorites. Irving said he, Kevin Durant and James Harden “wanted to strike while the iron was hot.”

“Last night I could barely sleep,” Irving said. “I’m like, man, I just don’t want to come out and not be who I know I am as a player. … [My] heart racing and just not being nervous and touching the basketball again, and just the rhythm of the game. I missed it.”