UPDATE: Despite earlier optimism, the Brooklyn Nets are still listing Kyrie Irving as out Saturday against Orlando.
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) January 15, 2021
Irving’s debut could come as early as Monday against Milwaukee.
Kyrie Irving missed last week’s Nets-76ers game reportedly for a mental-health day. Understandable in the aftermath of no charges being filed in the police shooting of Jacob Blake and pro-Donald Trump rioters storming the U.S. Capitol. It was hard to focus on basketball at that point.
But Irving’s extended absence – which included attending his sister’s birthday maskless – raised major questions. Why was Irving away so long?
Apparently, he reported for a league-mandated five-day quarantine four days ago.
Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving has been fined $50,000 for violating the league’s Health and Safety Protocols, which among other things prohibit attending indoor social gatherings of 15 or more people or entering bars, lounges, clubs or similar establishments, it was announced today by Byron Spruell, President, League Operations. The violation occurred when he attended a private indoor party last weekend.
Irving will forfeit salary for any games he misses due to his five-day quarantine period, which will allow him to return to team activities on Sat., Jan. 16 if he continues to test negative.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
As long as he tests negative and clears protocol, Kyrie Irving will be available and expected to play for the Nets vs. Orlando on Saturday, sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 15, 2021
Suddenly, Irving’s absence – which began Thursday of last week – looks far more reasonable.
He took a day or two in the aftermath of the major national news. At that point, it was the weekend of his sister’s birthday party. If he wanted to take another day or two to celebrate with family, that’s understandable. I wouldn’t advise gathering indoors with a large group of maskless people. But coronavirus isn’t our only challenge. The distancing necessary to prevent spread of the virus can be detrimental to mental health. There can be essential value in spending time with loved ones. Then, Irving reported to quarantine Monday.
Still, Irving should explain himself more fully upon his return. He’s the one who said (in a statement during his preseason media boycott): “I am committed to show up to work everyday, ready to have fun, compete, perform, and win championships alongside my teammates and colleagues in the Nets organization.” That obviously didn’t remain the case for long.
Nets general manager Sean Marks clearly knew something yesterday when he implied Irving was ready to return to the team and said Irving was excited to play with James Harden. Soon, the focus will return to basketball – and how Kevin Durant, Harden and Irving fit together.