On Friday, it was announced that Kyrie Irving had begun his return to the Nets, as the team decided to allow him to be a part-time player, joining them for road games and practices while sitting out home games as he continues to refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine as mandated by New York City.
Less than 24 hours later, Irving became the ninth member of the Brooklyn Nets to enter the league’s COVID protocols, as the team announced he would join Kevin Durant, who was put into protocols earlier in the day. For Irving, being unvaccinated means he needs to return five consecutive days of negative tests in order to join the team now, rather than the two asked of vaccinated players.
Irving needs five consecutive days of negative tests to join the team at practice. Now, he’s the ninth Brooklyn player to enter into protocols. https://t.co/5sATQFhhF9
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 18, 2021
There was a little confusion over whether this was part of a return to play protocol or the result of a positive test, and that was cleared up by Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News, who confirmed with the team it was indeed a positive or inconclusive test from Irving that put him in COVID protocols.
Got some clarity from the Nets: Kyrie Irving would not have entered the health and safety protocols if he was merely testing to return to the team. He has returned a positive or inconclusive test, which requires 5 days of consecutive negative tests for unvaccinated players.
— Kristian Winfield (@Krisplashed) December 18, 2021
It isn’t a huge surprise that Irving would find himself in protocols considering the massive spike in COVID-19 cases around the country — New York City posted its highest case count of the entire pandemic on Friday with over 27,000 positive cases — as the highly transmissible Omicron variant has begun wreaking havoc during the holiday season. It does put a wrench in the Nets plans of getting Irving back on the court any time soon to help with their shorthanded status, and the league is going to have to seriously consider postponements as they did for the Bulls with this Nets team that is rapidly approaching the same number of COVID absences at 9 as Chicago had with 10 when the league pushed two of its games.
While the NBA has made clear it wants to avoid postponements, it seems to be wishful thinking that they can continue without disruption to the schedule at this point.