Windhorst: Nets 'Acquiesced' to Kevin Durant, James Harden with Kyrie Irving's Return

Adam WellsDecember 21, 2021

BOSTON, MA - MAY 30: Kevin Durant #7, James Harden #13 and Kyrie Irving #11 of the Brooklyn Nets react to a play during the game against the Boston Celtics during Round 1, Game 4 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs on May 30, 2021 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  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 Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

The Brooklyn Nets' announcement last week that they would bring Kyrie Irving back as a part-time player wasn't done solely because of their recent roster issues because of the health and safety protocols. 

On the latest episode of his Hoop Collective podcast (starts at 30:50 mark), ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported Brooklyn's star players—specifically, James Harden and Kevin Durant—"made their opinions known on the position" that they wanted the star point guard back. 

Windhorst added the Nets finally "acquiesced" around the time they had multiple players in the league's COVID-19 protocols, but those talks began before that was an issue. 

In the statement announcing Irving's return, general manager Sean Marks said they "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."

Marks previously said Oct. 12 that Irving would "not play or practice with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant."

The decision stemmed from Irving's decision not to get vaccinated and a mandate in New York City that requires anyone entering an indoor venue, including basketball arenas, to be at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19. 

Brooklyn's short-handed roster has meant that Durant and Harden have been on the court a lot already this season. Durant ranks second in the NBA with 37.0 minutes per game. Harden is sixth at 36.2. 

In his last 11 games played from Nov. 22 to Dec. 16, Durant averaged 40.5 minutes per contest. Harden played fewer than 35 minutes once in 14 games from Nov. 12 to Dec. 10. 

The Nets had to have their games against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday and Washington Wizards on Tuesday postponed because they do not have the minimum eight players available to play given that they have 10 players, including their Big Three, in health and safety protocols. 

Brooklyn is currently scheduled to start a three-game Western Conference road trip on Thursday against the Portland Trail Blazers. It will play the Los Angeles Lakers in the first game of the newly branded Crypto.com Arena on Christmas Day.