Steve Nash expressed hope that Kyrie Irving could be out of health and safety protocols soon, and need a week or two of practice to get ramped up to make his season debut.
Irving’s return to action is starting to look sooner rather than later, a “when” after months of wondering “if.”
The Nets are slated to practice Wednesday, with at least a chance that Irving — who went into protocol on Dec. 18 — could be ready to work out then, or shortly thereafter.
“With Kyrie, I’m not sure, but it’s coming. He’s already been in for eight days or more, so he should be,” Nash said before Monday’s game with the Clippers in Los Angeles. “I’m not sure … how many days right now, but he’s got to be getting close.”
In the case of Irving, there’s a far from practicing and a far from playing. And for the first time, the Nets put some sort of measurement on just how far that gap is.
Irving famously hasn’t played since his June ankle injury, and hasn’t practiced since camp, thanks to his refusal to adhere to New York’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. As such, he’ll need a ramp up before he’s ready for live action.
“I’d say probably somewhere between a week and two weeks,” Nash said. “He’s isolating, so that puts another layer to the ramp-up. It’s not like he’s been working out. I’d imagine it’s going to be closer to two weeks once he comes out of protocols. We’ll see how it goes, though, because we have to evaluate him from a physical and performance standpoint, and then a basketball standpoint as well.”
While Irving can’t play at home — where the Nets have seven of their next nine, after Monday’s game — they’re looking forward to having the All-Star back in whatever context they get him.
“Hopefully we can get him back full-time, but it’s definitely gonna be Scary Hours,” Nic Claxton said. “He’s going to break the game for us and make things easier for everyone on the court. I’m ready to get my brother back.”
DeAndre’ Bembry, who has been close with Irving since both starred separately at St. Patrick’s of Elizabeth (N.J.), said Irving was never really separated emotionally from his team and is anxious to get back on the floor.
“I know he’s in good spirits,” Bembry said. “He was always attached to the group chat, so he’s always been connected with the team. Somehow, some way, he always checks in. It’s moreso us just giving him his space, and obviously now he’s more so ready to get back into things. For the most part, we all gave him his space so he can clear his head and do whatever he needs to do.
“But for now, we know he’s in good spirits. He’s obviously in the protocols now trying to get healthy. We’re just looking forward to the opportunity. We didn’t know when it was going to happen or if it was going to happen; the fact that he’s ready to come now, we’re welcoming him with open arms.”
The Nets only road games in their next nine are Jan. 5 in Indiana and a week later in Chicago. Their next extended trip is to Cleveland (Jan. 17), Washington (Jan. 19), San Antonio (Jan. 21) and Minnesota (Jan. 23).
“We’ll welcome him back. It’s still Kyrie Irving. We know what he can do on the floor,” Bembry said. “It’s more so just getting out there, still getting reps, and stuff like that. Not try to build him in, but more so just working through what we’ve been doing this year, because it’s a completely different team this year.
“We’re rolling right now, so we’re not too worried about where to put Kyrie. We all know what he can do on the floor. It’s more so just getting him there. That’s really the biggest thing that we want now.”