There is reportedly optimism within the Brooklyn Nets organization that guard Kyrie Irving will be able to become a full-time player at some point this season.
Appearing Wednesday night on SportsCenter, ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski said:
"I think ... as the months evolve between now and the All-Star break into the stretch run of the season and then into the playoffs that enough in the world could change where Kyrie Irving could become a full-time player again. I think that's real optimism within that organization."
Irving is currently only allowed to play in road games outside of New York City and Toronto because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19.
There are a few scenarios under which Irving could become a full-time player this season, with the most clear and obvious one being that he gets vaccinated.
Failing that, Wojnarowski noted that the Nets could pay a "nominal" fine every time Irving plays somewhere that vaccination is required, although he noted that he doesn't expect the team to take that route.
The third possibility is that COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted at some point between now and the end of the regular season, which would allow Kyrie to play home games at Barclays Center as well as road games against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
Regardless of how the circumstances play out, the Nets would undoubtedly love to have Irving on a nightly basis alongside Kevin Durant and James Harden.
In three games this season, the 29-year-old Irving is averaging 17.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.3 three-pointers made and 1.3 steals in 32.0 minutes per contest.
The seven-time All-Star hasn't been asked to put the team on his back thanks to the presence of Durant and Harden, but there is no question Kyrie is capable of doing just that when called upon.
With all three of their biggest stars playing together for just the second time this season Wednesday, the Nets crushed the Chicago Bulls 138-112 on the road and moved to within 1.5 games of them for first place in the Eastern Conference.
Given that the Bulls are the No. 1 seed and the Nets beat them that handily at full strength, Brooklyn has to be considered the favorite to represent the East in the NBA Finals when it has Kyrie, KD and Harden all in the lineup.
As of now, the Nets will continue to only have Irving for road games, and while they are talented enough to go the distance with that arrangement, there would be far less margin for error.