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Kyrie Irving sits on the sidelines for the Nets-Knicks in Brooklyn

Kyrie Irving finally made his season debut at the Barclays Center on Sunday.

He just didn’t come to play.

New York City’s lax indoor vaccination regulations may have relaxed enough to let the unvaccinated Irving into the building, but private sector regulations still prevent him from playing for the Nets at home.

The unprecedented situation led to a bizarre Kafka-esque scene in which Irving arrived fashionably late for that nationally televised clash with rival Knicks and sat in his courtside seats watching his Brooklyn teammates play.

The fact that it happened just a few hours after Mayor Eric Adams urged the All-Star Guard to get vaccinated only added to the surreal situation.

In one of the most dramatic mid-game performances at the Barclays Center since Kevin Durant was (temporarily) slapped from the logs to check into a game last season — or Prince William and Kate’s second-half arrival to LeBron James in the year Featured in 2014 – Irving walked through the visitor tunnel in a long cream peacoat with black lettering.

Kyrie Irving punches a fan as he walks to his pitchside seats at the Barclays Center on Sunday March 13, 2022.
Kyrie Irving punches a fan as he walks to his pitchside seats.
Robert Sabo/New York Post

With cameras tracking his every move, Irving made his way through the crowd, stopping every few feet to shake hands, give hugs and pat Nets fans as the crowd roared their approval.

He eventually made his way to the pitch and spoke to team owner Joe Tsai. At one point, Tsai appeared to step aside – perhaps so the national TV cameras could get a clear view of his star player – before the point guard finally took his place to watch the rest of the competition.

Kyrie Irving chats with Nets owner Joe Tsai during the Nets vs. Knicks game at the Barclays Center.
Kyrie Irving chats with Nets owner Joe Tsai.
Robert Sabo/New York Post

A 110-107 Nets win was only seen from a distance, like a fan.

When asked if he was given an explanation as to why Irving can attend games but not play, Brooklyn coach Steve Nash replied, “No.”

When asked if it made sense to him, Nash disagreed. “You know, I’ll just stay out of it,” he said. “I don’t want to intrude into an area I’m not an expert in.”

Kyrie Irving watches from his courtside seats during the Nets vs. Knicks game.
Kyrie Irving watches from his courtside seats during the Nets vs. Knicks game.
Robert Sabo/New York Post

A City Hall source told the Post that the private sector worker mandate applies to almost all private businesses in the city, big and small. While the private sector mandate has the same exemption for non-resident athletes as Key2NYC (the recently removed venue mandate), this only applies to athletes playing for visiting teams, not local rosters.

Although Irving is technically a resident of West Orange, NJ because he’s employed by Brooklyn — a New York team — he’s still insured regardless of where he lives. So he was free to come to the Barclays Center on Sunday as a fan, just not as a staff member. That’s why he wasn’t sitting on the bench, but in his courtyard.

With the Nets also having an away game against the Knicks at the Garden, Irving is now only qualified for four of the 14 remaining games of the regular season.

Of course, there is a simple solution to this problem.

When a Brooklyn fan berated Adams at a Sunday morning news conference that Irving couldn’t play at home, Adams — a Nets fan — offered a straightforward response about the city’s brand.

“And you’re right, son. You’re right. Thanks. Look, you’re right. Kyrie can play tomorrow: get vaccinated,” Adams said with a chuckle and a thumbs-up. “Continue. I love New York and heckling. I come out of City Hall and people are protesting outside and I said, ‘Wow, it’s great to be in New York.’ ”

https://nypost.com/2022/03/13/kyrie-irving-sits-courtside-for-nets-knicks-in-brooklyn/ Kyrie Irving sits on the sidelines for the Nets-Knicks in Brooklyn

JOE HERNANDEZ

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