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Nets' Kyrie Irving: 'Felt Like I Was Letting the Team Down' When I Was Unable to Play

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVApril 26, 2022

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving acknowledges fans in the stands while leaving the court after an NBA basketball game against the Orlando Magic, Tuesday, March 15, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

The Brooklyn Nets' chaotic 2021-22 season came to an end Monday when the Boston Celtics completed a first-round sweep with a 116-112 victory, and Kyrie Irving was feeling reflective.

"I felt like I was letting the team down at a point where I wasn't able to play," he told reporters. "… It became a distraction at times."

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"I felt like I was letting the team down at a point when I wasn't able to play...it became a distraction at times"<br><br>Kyrie Irving talks about the challenges the Nets faced this season <a href="https://t.co/e4y702Miyy">pic.twitter.com/e4y702Miyy</a>

Irving played a mere 29 games in the regular season because he remained unvaccinated against COVID-19.

The seven-time All-Star's status was just one obstacle the Nets faced.

There were health concerns, as Durant appeared in 55 games, Joe Harris was lost for the season in November and James Harden was sidelined for 11 games before he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. Ben Simmons came over in the deal, but he didn't appear in one game.

On Monday, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Simmons and Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul met with the Nets to discuss "the physical and mental hurdles remaining in the All-Star's pursuit of a return to play."

There has also been speculation about head coach Steve Nash's job since the team failed to live up to championship expectations.

However, NBA insider Marc Stein reported Nash "is likely to avoid being rendered management's fall guy for the Nets' meek playoff showing, noting how much madness (and, frankly, absurdity) that the former Hall of Fame point guard faced during his second season as a head coach."

That included the Irving saga.

While the simplest way for him to play throughout the season would have been to get a vaccine that has proved to be safe and effective, Irving chose not to take that route.

That left his playing status outside of his control, as a New York City mandate prevented him from taking the court for home games. At first, Brooklyn said it didn't want Irving to be a part-time player, but it decided to let him play road games when a COVID-19 outbreak left it with a roster crunch.

Irving finally played at home after the mandate was lifted, with his first appearance at Barclays Center coming March 27.

That didn't leave much time to build continuity with the rest of the roster, and it was clear Boston was the better team in the first-round matchup.