According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, “after missing the Nets’ first 35 games of the season,” Irving is expected to play in Wednesday night’s (Jan. 5) game against the Indiana Pacers. It will mark his first time competing since he was benched for his failure to get vaccinated.
Irving was initially prohibited from playing home games because of New York City’s vaccine mandate. Nets leaders later decided he would “not play or practice with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant.” Following a few injuries and several players in COVID-19 protocols, the team reversed course, announcing the baller would return as a part-time player.
The Nets star, who was COVID-positive, joined his teammates in practice last week after clearing the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
“Last night I could barely sleep,” he explained. “I’m like, man, I just don’t want to come out and not be who I know I am as a player. … [My] heart racing and just not being nervous and touching the basketball again, and just the rhythm of the game. I missed it.”
He also admitted that he “understood” and “respected” the Brooklyn team’s decision to have him sit out.
“I understood their decision and I respected it,” Irving told reporters upon his NBA return. “I really had to sit back and try not to become too emotionally attached to what they were deciding to do. I had to sit down and really evaluate things and see it from their perspective.”
“Coming into the season, I had my thought process of being able to be a full-time teammate and just go out and have fun and provide a great brand of basketball out there,” he added. “But unfortunately, it didn’t happen like that. Things happen for a reason.”