Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving said he dealt with the fear of missing out (FOMO) while away from the franchise to open the 2021-22 NBA season.
The Nets originally opted to play without Irving because he would have been unavailable for home games because of New York City's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for large-scale events and his choice to be unvaccinated, but they've reversed their decision and began allowing him to play road games.
"I didn't wanna accept it at first. ... I tried not to get emotionally attached to it, because when I did it felt like I had FOMO," Irving told reporters after Wednesday's 138-112 win over the Chicago Bulls. "Every. Single. Day. Was just like, 'Man, I just wanna be with the guys.'"
Irving's shot has been a little rusty through his first three games—45.8 shooting percentage after posting a 50.6 percent mark last season—but his initial play has been pretty much as good as the Nets could have hoped for following a seven-month hiatus.
The 29-year-old Duke product has averaged 17.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.3 steals since his return with the Nets going 2-1 in the three contests.
He's remained out of the lineup for home games and discussed what he does in those situations after Wednesday's win with Brooklyn set for back-to-back matchups at the Barclays Center:
"I'm in Jersey. I go into the facility, into Brooklyn, to get my treatment, do workouts and then I go back home and I'm either with my son or my fiancee or both. If you only understood how many people support the Nets from my hometown and also from where I'm from, it's a lot. Sometimes, it can be a little overwhelming. I can't really go out and watch at a local bar or anything like that."
Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News reported the Nets do have another option: play Irving in home games and pay fines that will max out at $5,000 per offense or $100,000 for the team's 20 remaining games at Barclays Center this season, a minuscule amount for an NBA franchise.
Doing so would likely create some controversy, but it's something the team may consider as the playoffs move closer and Irving's nightly presence becomes more crucial.
For now, the Nets should be able to continue building chemistry even if the guard remains in a part-time role as nine of their next 13 games are on the road.
Wednesday's blowout of the Bulls, who still lead the Eastern Conference at 27-12, is a sign of what the Nets (26-14) are capable of when they're clicking on all cylinders.
If Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden are all healthy and fully available for the postseason, Brooklyn will likely be the team to beat in the East.