Nets Gov. Joe Tsai on Kyrie Irving's Potential Return: 'We're Trying to Be Practical'

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVDecember 18, 2021

MILWAUKEE, WI - JUNE 13: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets looks on during Round 2, Game 4 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs on June 13 2021 at the Fiserv Forum Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images).
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Brooklyn Nets governor Joe Tsai said the decision to bring Kyrie Irving back to the active roster is a basketball-centric move, not a political statement.

Tsai told Brian Lewis of the New York Post the team reached the conclusion that Irving gives it the best chance to win games amid injuries and COVID-19 protocol absences, even though he'll only be eligible to play road games because of his unvaccinated status and New York City's vaccine mandate for large-scale events.

"We're trying to be practical. And I've always said I don't want to make this a political issue," Tsai said Friday night. "My only religion is to win games and win the championship. That's where we are."

Nets general manager Sean Marks released a statement on October 12 saying Irving wouldn't join the team for the 2021-22 NBA season until he was "eligible to be a full participant."

Marks announced the team's reversal of that position Friday:

"After discussions with our coaches, players and staff, the organization has decided to have Kyrie Irving re-join the team for games and practices in which he is eligible to participate. We arrived at this decision with the full support of our players and after careful consideration of our current circumstances, including players missing games due to injuries and health and safety protocols. We believe that the addition of Kyrie will not only make us a better team but allow us to more optimally balance the physical demand on the entire roster. We look forward to Kyrie's return to the lineup, as well as getting our entire roster back together on the court."

Irving has been steadfast in his decision to remain unvaccinated. The 2011 first overall pick explained in October he isn't anti-vaccine but was making a choice based on his own circumstances.

"This is my life," the seven-time All-Star said. "I get to do whatever I want with this, this is one body that I get here. And you are telling me what to do with my body. ... This has everything to do with what is going on in our world. And I am being grouped into something that is bigger than just the game of basketball."

Tsai, a vaccine advocate, told Lewis that allowing the guard to return doesn't mean he supports his decision to remain unvaccinated.

"So I think a lot of people that are either pro-vax or anti-vax people are mad at me for taking one stance or the other. But I have said from the very beginning I'm not taking this as a political thing," he said. "I'm doing this to help the Brooklyn Nets win a championship. That's the thinking."

Irving will certainly provide an on-court boost to the Nets once he gets back up to full speed.

The 29-year-old Duke product averaged 26.9 points, 6.0 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals across 54 appearances for Brooklyn last season.

A timetable for his first appearance hasn't been announced as he'll first need to get reintegrated in the NBA's COVID-19 protocols to begin practicing.