Sport

Nets’ Kyrie Irving is cleared for the home game

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Kyrie Irving’s years of exile from Brooklyn is finally over.

Mayor Eric Adams is poised to announce Thursday that Irving and other unvaccinated athletes will now be allowed to play professional sports in the city as part of a major policy change. Politico was first to break the news, which has since been confirmed by The Post, and will be the best possible birthday present for Irving.

And the biggest boost the Nets could hope for in their quest for their first-ever NBA title, moving from contender to favorite.

“I would appreciate that,” Brooklyn coach Steve Nash said ahead of Wednesday’s game with the Memphis Grizzles.

Despite the delivery, Nash’s Cheshire Cat grin told the story of how big this would be for Brooklyn.

Irving – who turned 30 on Wednesday – has only played 20 games all season and is barred from playing in New York for refusing to honor the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates. He didn’t make his season debut until January 5, the situation hampered the entire season.

Kyrie Irving and Eric Adams
Kyrie Irving and Eric Adams
Getty Images; Reuters

But this policy change will not only impact the Nets, it could be seismic in determining the NBA Finals.

“Good,” Nash said. “I do not want to say more.”

Changing the private-sector immunization mandate would allow an exemption for workplace athletes and entertainers, suddenly making Irving (as well as unvaccinated Yankees and Mets) eligible for home games. It could be announced Thursday at Citi Field.

But after Kevin Durant angered the mayor’s office by calling Adams, Nash didn’t dwell on a question about the upcoming baseball season’s appeal and lobbying that helped move the needle.

“Um, I don’t know if I should comment on that now,” Nash said. “Let’s just see where the chips fall.”

Since taking office on New Year’s Day, Adams has gradually and systematically eased the COVID policy introduced by his predecessor, Bill de Blasio.

Without the change, Irving would only have qualified for two of the Nets’ remaining nine regular-season games: Saturday in Miami and the following weekend in Atlanta. That’s about to change, and it could play a role in the Eastern Conference race.

Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving
Getty Images

“I’m not interested in politics, man. I play basketball. I take care of my kids,” Center Andre Drummond said of Irving’s situation on Wednesday morning. “Whatever the mayor decides is what he does.

“Hopefully he makes the decision to do something to help [Irving] somehow figured out if he needs to test before games or whatever it may be. But at the end of the day I don’t control that. I can only control what happens on the pitch and hopefully the best will happen.”

The best-case scenario appears to be about to materialize.

Irving came into Wednesday averaging 27.7 points and was on the verge of repeating last season’s 50/40/90 shooting split.

Brooklyn has an offensive rating of 119.3 with Irving on the floor, the highest for any player who averaged at least 20 minutes and played at least 10 games. And her 126.3 with Irving and Durant on court combined is the top 5 at the league’s overall championship level.

“He’s a pro,” Drummond said. “He’s taken a stand for what he believes in, but he’s still a pro. When he comes back, he doesn’t miss a beat. He does the necessary work to make sure he doesn’t miss anything when he comes back. We’re all excited for him to come back and we’re trying to hold it down while he’s gone.”

But now it seems Irving won’t be away at every home game anymore.

“[Wednesday is his] birthday, so God knows what’s going to happen,” Drummond said. “I just seriously think, like I said, with Kyrie, he’s a real pro. When he hits the ground, he hangs up his hat and does whatever he’s supposed to do. So whether it’s 50 points or six points, he’s making an impression regardless.”

https://nypost.com/2022/03/23/nets-kyrie-irving-will-be-cleared-to-play-at-home/ Nets’ Kyrie Irving is cleared for the home game

JOE HERNANDEZ

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