For the first time since her virtual appearance on Media Day three months ago, Kyrie Irving spoke to reporters on Wednesday. After training with the Brooklyn Nets, Irving – still unvaccinated against COVID-19 and therefore ineligible to play in home games (or road games against the New York Knicks and Toronto Raptors) – said repeatedly to reporters that he was grateful to be back.
Irving authorized the health and safety protocols on Tuesday. Shortly after Irving’s media availability, Mark Levine, a New York City councilor who chairs the council’s health committee, tweeted that there was a record 39,591 new COVID cases in the city on Wednesday and 770 new hospitalizations.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s been relatively difficult to watch from the side, with everything that’s going on in the world,” Irving said. “I know everyone feels it, so I’m just praying that everyone is healthy during these times. But if I get the opportunity to go out on the pitch and play with some of my teammates, and even though it’s just on the road to away games, I’m just grateful for the opportunity. “
Earlier this month, the Nets reversed their decision not to let Irving be less than a full participant in the 2020-21 season. Brooklyn recently had up to 10 players sidelined due to health and safety protocols, and three of its games have been postponed. In this context, the organization decided that it could use an All-Star part-time.
“I understood their (initial) decision and respected it,” Irving said. “I really had to sit down and think and try not to get too emotionally attached to what they were deciding to do. I had to sit down and really assess things and see them from their perspective, that is to say the organization and my teammates. “
Irving said his teammates Kevin Durant and James Harden had “always been supportive” and stayed in shape in part by playing pickup games in college and college gyms. He said he had tried to stay “in touch with the team” throughout the season.
“I knew the consequences,” Irving said. “I was not prepared for them, by any stretch of the imagination.”
According to Irving, when the Nets told him they wanted him to come back, he didn’t hesitate, “I said, ‘Absolutely.’ It’s always where I want to be. I wanted to play with the team as far as I can. “
Brooklyn coach Steve Nash told reporters Irving “looks great considering he’s just been out of protocols and hasn’t played basketball.” Irving said he missed the work environment and “it was like riding a bike or being on his first day of school again.” There will be a period of build-up, however, before he can make his debut in the season.
Now that his first regular season training session is over, Irving said it was “time to turn the page” and focus on winning a championship.
“I don’t want to say too much about myself or what’s going on while I’m gone,” he said. “I just focus on putting the best foot forward for the team and just being available.”
Being fully available, however, will continue to be impossible, unless Irving gets vaccinated or the city relaxes its regulations. Once he’s fit to play, his return will have to wait until the Nets are on the road. Next Wednesday, Jan.5, they’ll be visiting the Indiana Pacers, then they’ll be back home until they visit the Chicago Bulls on Jan.12. Their next multi-match road trip will take place January 17-23. and will see them visit Cleveland, Washington, San Antonio and Minnesota.
Irving said the team “will rely heavily on our coaching staff” to manage various rosters at home and on the road. He added that the Nets have “a very high IQ” and that “my job is just to make the game easier, whether it’s point guard, shooter, filling in for 15 minutes on the bench, 20 minutes “. It will take “a little patience”, he added, for the team to adapt to the “new situation”.