Regardless of how you feel about Kyrie Irving’s stance on the COVID-19 vaccine, or the Brooklyn Nets’ decision to reverse course and welcome him back with open arms after
Omarion Omicron did the Bankhead Bounce all throughout the league, the seven-time NBA All-Star is primed to return to a court near you (not in the Tri-State area though, sorry) in a matter of weeks. And in preparation for his unvaccinated return, CBS Sports reports that the 29-year-old broke his silence and spoke to reporters on Wednesday at Brooklyn’s practice facility for the first time this season after practicing with his teammates.
“Not going to lie, it’s been relatively tough to watch from the sideline, with everything going on in the world,” he said. “I know everybody’s feeling it, so, just praying for everybody to be healthy during these times. But if I get the opportunity to get on the court and play with some of my teammates, and even if it’s just on the road for away games, I’m just grateful for that opportunity.”
As we’ve reported extensively at The Root, the West Orange, N.J., native’s refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccine put him at odds with a New York City mandate that requires proof of vaccination in order to enter arenas, gyms, restaurants, and other indoor venues. As a result, he’s prohibited from playing any home games for the Nets, which forced his team in October to announce that he would not be allowed to participate in any games or practices this season—as in at all—until he’s “eligible to be a full participant.”
For the first three months of the season, Brooklyn never wavered on its stance. But with the Omicron variant decimating the pool of available players throughout the league, the Nets felt they had no other choice but to facilitate the return of their polarizing point guard—even if he still won’t be available as a full-time contributor.
“I understood their [initial] decision and I respected it,” Irving said on Wednesday. “I really had to sit back and think and try to not become too emotionally attached to what they were deciding to do. I had to sit down and really evaluate things and see it from their perspective, meaning the organization and my teammates.”
After explaining that he tried to stay in basketball shape by playing pickup games, he admitted that while he knew his decision was controversial, he was ill-prepared for what was to follow.
“I knew the consequences,” he said. “I wasn’t prepared for them, by no stretch of the imagination.”
So when the Nets came begging for his services, Kyrie was overjoyed.
“I said, ‘Absolutely.’ This has always been where I want to be,” he said. “I’ve wanted to be playing with the team in whatever capacity I can do that.”
If he can stay healthy (big if) and COVID doesn’t continue to be a factor throughout the NBA playoffs (even bigger if), his return dramatically changes Brooklyn’s likelihood of winning a championship.
I guess we’ll see how it all plays out but right now, it’s safe to assume that the Nets organization couldn’t be happier.