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Nets must ‘wait’ for Adams to free Kyrie

Superstar guard Irving still restricted from playing at home

March 23, 2022 John Torenli, Sports Editor
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The Nets have been waiting and waiting and waiting for Mayor Eric Adams to lift or alter New York City’s vaccination mandates so Kyrie Irving can rejoin his teammates here in Brooklyn for the stretch run.

On Tuesday, Irving and the Nets found out that they will have to wait a while longer.

“Right now, we’re going to take some complaints,” Adams said Tuesday when asked if local unvaccinated athletes would be able to play in their respective home arenas either later this month or by early April.

The city’s COVID-19 protocols don’t allow for unvaccinated employees to work for private businesses. The mandates are affecting the Nets, but will soon carry over to the city’s two baseball teams, the Mets and Yankees.

Irving,, who has already forfeited more than half of his $35 million salary for the season, is averaging 37.8 points per game this month, including a Nets team record and career-best 60 points at Orlando on March 15.

But Irving hasn’t played since and he has participated in only four games since February 26, with the Nets (38-34) going 3-1 in those contests.

With six of their final 10 regular season games at home, not including Wednesday night’s scheduled visit to Memphis, the Nets may need Irving’s scoring prowess to either maintain or enhance their current playoff positioning.

However, Adams insists that the time is not right to lift the city’s mandates, even though he considers himself a diehard Nets fan and Irving supporter.

“When this is all said and done, people are going to realize this is a thoughtful administration and we got it right,” the Mayor noted.

“So baseball, basketball, businesses, all of those things, they have to wait until that layer comes.”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams has not yet lifted the private business vaccination mandates that will allow Kyrie Irving to play in Brooklyn. AP Photo by Seth Wenig

Brooklyn went 2-1 on its recently completed homestand without Irving. But it’s going to get harder for Kevin Durant to carry the load in the playoffs without his sidekick in the Nets’ home contests.

At press time, the Nets were in sole possession of eighth place in the Eastern Conference playoff race, three games behind sixth-place Cleveland for the right to advance directly to a first-round playoff series.

If the Nets finish between the seventh and 10th seeds, they will be relegated to a four-team play-in tournament just to reach a best-of-7.

Despite Brooklynites clamoring for Kyrie, Adams remains steadfast in his belief that the Nets’ drive for a championship takes a back seat to safety within the private sector.

“We’re going to do it in the right way,” he said. “We’re going to follow the science … we’re going to make the right decision. And in New York, no matter what you do, this is 8.8 million people and 30 million opinions, so you’re never going to satisfy New Yorkers, so you must go with the logic, your heart and the science.”

Brooklyn will also visit Miami on Saturday, giving Irving a chance to play back-to-back games and perhaps give Durant a rest.

After that, all but two of the Nets’ final eight games will be away from home.

That means they’ll have to get to the playoffs without Irving and perhaps even begin their postseason run with the mercurial superstar in the stands for games at Barclays.

Though he’s one of the best players ever, Kevin Durant knows he needs Kyrie Irving back to drive the Nets toward their first-ever NBA title. AP Photo by Frank Franklin II

“We’re going to slowly peel back, as I stated over and over again, we’re going to do it layer by layer and each layer we peel back we’re going to do an analysis: ‘Are we OK?'” Adams pondered.

“And if we have to pivot and shift and come back here in a week and say we’re going to do something different, we’re going to do that. I’m not going to hesitate to say this is where the numbers are taking us, this is where the science is and this is what we’re going to do. Because I’m not going to only view this from where we are in the crisis, I see myself out of crisis.”

As the playoffs approach, the Nets may reach a crisis point themselves without one of the key cogs in their championship machine.

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