After missing the first half of the season and all home games in the second half of the season so far, it finally looks like things are going to change for Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets. News broke Wednesday that New York City mayor Eric Adams is expected to reverse the vaccine mandate that has kept those who work in the private sector (such as the Barclays Center) unable to work if they are unvaccinated. Because of this, Kyrie Irving has not been able to play at home in the three months he’s played this season and was only just recently allowed to attend home games, as a fan.
In the 20 games (at the time of this writing) he has played this season, Irving has been one of the best guards in the league, averaging 27.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG, and 5.3 APG. Coming in fresh around the halfway point of the season, Irving has been a positive factor for the Nets, even though they have posted an 8-12 record in the games he has been available. With the mandate expected to be lifted, Irving and other athletes in New York should be able to play for their home crowds starting Thursday, March 24th. This could not happen at a better time for the Nets. Ben Simmons has not been available for the team since the trade deadline due to the herniated disc in his back. While the team also acquired Seth Curry and Andre Drummond, Curry has missed several games, leading the team to have some issues at the guard spot.
With Irving back full-time, the team could go on a run in the final weeks of the season. Looking at the Nets final nine games, they have a relatively easy schedule (with a few exceptions). Brooklyn will have games against Miami, Charlotte, Detroit, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Houston, the Knicks, Cleveland, and Indiana. With Irving and Durant at full health, the team should be able to win at least six or seven of those games, minimum. In the three games between Brooklyn and Miami this season, Miami has won each game, with Irving available for only one game. Against Milwaukee, Brooklyn has won one of the three games, with Irving available for one game.
With three weeks left in the NBA season, the Nets currently sit in the eighth seed with a 38-35 record. Only four games separate the Nets from the sixth seed. Irving’s full-time availability automatically changes the playoff picture, as he would be available for a seven-game series. The team could end up playing Miami, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, or Boston, depending on how the rest of the season (and potential play-in) goes. Milwaukee and Philadelphia are the two most intriguing first-round matchups for the Nets, with Bucks eliminating the Nets in the second round last year and James Harden is on the Sixers. With both potential series being almost guaranteed to go seven games, Irving’s full-time availability will be a game-changer for the Nets going forward and in the playoffs.