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Report: Kyrie to be freed on Thursday

Irving to play in Brooklyn after vax mandates are lifted

March 23, 2022 John Torenli, Sports Editor
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Kyrie Irving got to play on his 30th birthday because the Nets were in Memphis, not here in Downtown Brooklyn.

By Thursday, he may finally be allowed to play anywhere the rest of his teammates do.

Irving scored a game-high 43 points Wednesday night before a crowd of 17,794 at FedExForum, but Brooklyn absorbed a 132-120 loss to Memphis, which was without injured star Ja Morant due to a sore right knee.

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With six of their remaining nine games at Barclays Center, the Nets (38-35) were hoping for yet another virtuoso performance from the enigmatic playmaker, who is banned from playing in Brooklyn until Mayor Eric Adams lifts New York City’s COVID-19 protocols for private businesses.

They got it in the form of 15-of-27 shooting, including 6-of-11 from 3-point range, to go with eight assists for
Irving, who found out Tuesday that Adams was remaining firm on his vaccination mandates pending further notice.

But the New York Post reported during Wednesday’s loss that Adams would pull a quick reversal of his stance earlier in the week, freeing Irving to play alongside his teammates down the stretch and into the playoffs.

“I really don’t have any comments until I see (the mandates lifted),” Nets head coach Steve Nash said after his team remained in sole possession of eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

The expecting lifting of the ban would allow the New York Mets and Yankees to field a team with unvaccinated players as well in advance of next month’s season openers here in Queens and the Bronx, respectively.

Kevin Durant left the court in Memphis Wednesday night with news that Mayor Eric Adams may lift NYC’s vaccination mandates for private businesses Thursday. AP Photo by Brandon Pill

Nets fans clamoring for Irving to play here in Brooklyn will get their first chance to see him on the Barclays hardwood Sunday night vs. Charlotte after watching on television as he put up 50 points against the Hornets on March 8 and a team-record and personal-best 60 at Orlando on March 15.

Irving hadn’t played since that historic effort, but was brilliant again Wednesday. So was fellow superstar Kevin Durant, who poured in 35 points, handed out eight assists and ripped down 11 rebounds.

None of it was enough on a night the Nets received the news they’ve been waiting for since the season started.

Desmond Bane and De’Anthony Melton scored a team-high 23 points apiece for Memphis (50-23), which improved to 15-2 this year without Morant, their best player.

Andre Drummond had 15 points and Bruce Brown finished with 13 for Brooklyn, which will be in Miami Saturday on the eve of their first home game of the season with Irving available.

Kyrie Irving (far right) won’t have to sit on the sidelines Sunday night at Barclays Center if Mayor Eric Adams lifts his vaccination mandates for private businesses Thursday. AP Photo by Seth Wenig

“Hopefully (Mayor Adams) makes a decision to do something to help [Irving] out some way, somehow, if he has to test before games or whatever it may be,” Drummond noted.

“But at the end of the day, I don’t control that. I can only control what goes on on the court, and hopefully the best happens.”

With Irving back in the fold as a full-time player, the best may be yet to come for a Nets team that still has a mandate of its own: delivering our borough its first major pro sports championship since 1955.

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