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Kyrie Irving’s return takes hit as New York City Mayor-elect Eric Adams stands firm on vaccine mandate

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The resolution to the Kyrie Irving saga in Brooklyn looks like it will continue a little while longer after NYC Mayor-elect Eric Adams said that he would not be changing the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate which requires athletes to have at least one dose of the vaccine to play home games. 

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“New York City’s not going to change their rule,” Adams said in an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN..

“And again, it’s up to the NBA and Kyrie to come to a full understanding on how to keep him on the Nets and continue to look after all our athletes that are coming here.”

Under the mandate Irving would have been scheduled to miss the Nets’ 43 games played in New York, but the franchise decided he would also not be allowed to play on the road or practice with his teammates, effectively ruling their star point guard out for the season unless the mandates changed. 

MORE: Nets would welcome back Kyrie Irving 

When asked about potential changes to the vaccine mandate and what that would mean for Irving, Nets head coach Steve Nash said Irving would be “welcome back for sure.” 

Irving averaged 26.9 points, 6 assists and 4.8 rebounds in 54 games for the Nets last season. 

Why is Kyrie Irving unable to play?

Local guidelines prevent unvaccinated Knicks and Nets players from entering their home arenas for games. (Visiting players follow different protocols.)

With the Nets playing 41 home games at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and two road games at Manhattan’s Madison Square Garden, it was determined that Irving would only be available to play in 39 of the team’s 82 games this season.

MORE: Why Kyrie remains out of Nets lineup

On Oct. 12, Nets general manager Sean Marks released an official statement regarding Irving’s availability:

“Given the evolving nature of the situation and after thorough deliberation, we have decided Kyrie Irving will not play or practice with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant. Kyrie has made a personal choice, and we respect his individual right to choose. Currently the choice restricts his ability to be a full-time member of the team, and we will not permit any member of our team to participate with part-time availability.”

How have the Nets played without Kyrie Irving?

The Nets are adjusting to life without Irving and learning about themselves in the process.

MORE: What we’ve learned about Nets without Kyrie

Brooklyn dropped its season opener to the defending champion Bucks by 23 points, which was the first of three double-digit losses in its first 10 games. In Irving’s absence, Bruce Brown and Jevon Carter have earned starts in the backcourt, while Kevin Durant has done the heavy lifting as a scorer.

Irving’s absence has also opened the door for free-agent acquisition Patty Mills to take on a big role off the bench.

Nets’ upcoming schedule

Brooklyn Nets 2021-22 schedule 
Date Opponent Time (ET) National TV
Sunday, Nov. 7 at Raptors 3:30 p.m.
Monday, Nov. 8 at Bulls 8 p.m. NBA TV
Wednesday, Nov. 10 at Magic 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 12 at Pelicans 8 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 14 at Thunder 7 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 16 vs. Warriors 7:30 p.m. TNT
Wednesday, Nov. 17 vs. Cavaliers 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 19 vs. Magic 7:30 p.m.
Monday, Nov. 22 at Cavaliers 7 p.m. NBA TV

On Jan. 1, 2022, the day Adams is scheduled to take office, the Nets will host the Clippers at Barclays Center. It will be the Nets’ 37th game of the 2021-22 season.

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