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Kyrie Irving Expected to Play 'Big Chunk of Game' in Season Debut for Nets vs. Pacers

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 5, 2022

Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash expects superstar guard Kyrie Irving to have a significant workload in his season debut Wednesday.

Nash told reporters that while Irving may not reach his usual minutes total against the Indiana Pacers, he'll see plenty of action:

"I don't think it's where he can play 38 [minutes]. But I think he can play a big chunk of the game. He's played a lot—he's had three or four full court days with the five-on-five, so I think he's capable of playing extended minutes, but not necessarily his customary high 30s."

Irving, who has not received the COVID-19 vaccine, has not played this season because of rules in New York City that prohibit unvaccinated individuals from entering certain indoor facilities, including Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

The Nets planned to sit Irving until he got vaccinated or the rules changed, but they had a change of heart last month and will allow Irving to play in road games.

In addition to home games, restrictions will prevent Irving from playing road games against the New York Knicks and Toronto Raptors.

Like many NBA teams, the Nets have been hit hard by COVID-19. Much of their roster has spent time in health and safety protocols in recent weeks.

Kevin Durant and James Harden were among them, and Irving was also briefly in health and safety protocols after he returned to the team.

Durant, Harden and Irving are all active now, however, and the Nets are largely healthy, which should bode well for their chances of making a run to the top of the conference.

Brooklyn is second in the Eastern Conference at 23-12, trailing the first-place Chicago Bulls by two games, but the Nets will have the entirety of their Big Three for the first time all season Wednesday.

Irving has missed a significant number of regular-season and playoff games since signing with the Nets in 2019 because of injuries and his vaccination-related absence, but he has been hugely productive when on the floor.

In 74 regular-season games for Brooklyn, Kyrie is averaging 27.0 points, 6.1 assists, 4.9 rebounds, 2.8 three-pointers made and 1.4 steals per contest.

He also shot 50.6 percent from the field, 40.2 percent from beyond the arc and 92.2 percent from the free-throw line last season, making him the ninth different player in NBA history to join the 50-40-90 club.

Irving was named an All-Star for the seventh time in his career last season, further cementing his status as one of the NBA's elite players.

The Nets will have to manage a unique situation moving forward with Irving only available for road games, but having a player of Irving's caliber for any number of games is a positive for a team with championship aspirations.

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