Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving entered the NBA's health and safety protocols, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.
The seven-time All-Star has yet to play this season because of his failure to adhere to New York City's COVID-19 vaccine mandate. He's unable to play home games at Barclays Center but could suit up for the Nets' road games in states without vaccine mandates.
The team announced plans to welcome Irving back Friday after it placed a number of players in the league's health and safety protocols:
Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News clarified how Saturday's news went beyond the steps Irving needed to get clearance to play:
Kristian Winfield @Krisplashed
Got some clarity from the Nets: Kyrie Irving would not have entered the health and safety protocols if he was merely testing to return to the team. He has returned a positive or inconclusive test, which requires 5 days of consecutive negative tests for unvaccinated players.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski noted Irving will need to test negative for COVID-19 for five straight days before he's eligible to practice. Brooklyn embarks on a three-game road trip starting Dec. 23.
Questions over Irving's status originally arose when Rolling Stone's Matt Sullivan reported in September he had displayed skepticism toward the COVID-19 vaccine. His aunt also told Sullivan the 29-year-old might be prepared to miss home games at Barclays Center.
Irving declined to say whether he'd get vaccinated when addressing the subject at his individual media day ahead of the regular season:
Nets Videos @SNYNets
Does Kyrie Irving plan to get vaccinated?<br><br>"I like to keep that stuff private. Living in the public sphere, there's a lot of questions about what's going on in the world of Kyrie, but I'd like to keep that stuff private" <a href="https://t.co/BOciGLWu5U">pic.twitter.com/BOciGLWu5U</a>
At 21-8, the Nets own the Eastern Conference's best record. They earned their fourth straight win Thursday over the Philadelphia 76ers but are due to be significantly short-handed for Saturday's matchup with the Orlando Magic.
"We’re trying to be practical," Nets governor Joe Tsai told the New York Post's Brian Lewis. "And I’ve always said I don’t want to make this a political issue. My only religion is to win games and win the championship. That’s where we are."
Tsai's comments alluded to the difficulty of Brooklyn's present situation. The team announced Saturday that Kevin Durant entered the health and safety protocols, making Irving the ninth Nets player to do so amid the latest rise in cases.
With Irving now entering the protocols, the veteran playmaker won't be providing the short-term relief the franchise envisioned.