NBA: Brooklyn’s Irving sees light at end of the tunnel as COVID-19 restrictions ease
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving said he was hopeful he would be able to finally play on his team’s home court as New York moves to ease COVID-19 vaccination requirements amid falling case numbers.
Irving has refused to take the vaccine and as a result has been able to play only road games with the squad due to New York City’s rule.
“The circumstances this year have not been ideal but I’m glad things are settling down and there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” Irving told reporters after the Nets’ 126-123 win over the Bucks in Milwaukee on Saturday.
“Hopefully I can get back on that home floor playing in Barclays and we can have a conversation about turning the page and moving forward beyond this.”
Irving said he appreciated recent comments by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who said the city’s mandate, which has kept Irving from playing home games but allows unvaccinated players from visiting teams to compete, “doesn’t quite make sense to me”.
“My respect for him went to a whole new level and I’m just grateful that he did that,” Irving said of Silver. “He really took one for the team.”
The NBA does not require its players to be vaccinated but Silver has strongly urged them to do so anyway. He has said that 97-98% of its players are vaccinated.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who took office on Jan. 1, has also been critical of the policy but has suggested a change to it is coming.
Irving scored a season-high 38 points on 14-for-26 shooting to upset the defending champion Bucks in a rematch of the 2021 Eastern Conference semi-finals.
It was Irving’s first game in Milwaukee since he injured his right ankle in Game Four of that series at Fiserv Forum, ending his season.
“It definitely felt like there was a weight lifted being back here, being healthy, getting a win and knowing that there’s a possibility we could see them down the line again,” Irving said.