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NEW YORK — As the Brooklyn Nets continue to wait and hope that the New York City vaccination mandate gets lifted and Kyrie Irving is able to play in home games again, Nets coach Steve Nash sees a renewed sense of optimism from the 29-year-old guard that a resolution might be coming in the next few weeks.
“I will say that he’s been extremely locked in,” Nash said after Wednesday’s practice. “Kyrie’s been great on the practice floor. He’s been great in film sessions. He’s been creating dialogue over aspects of our play. So I sense a real focus and urgency from him. And so if that’s any indication, I would say he is getting excited at the prospect of being allowed to play in all our games and hopefully in the short term.”
Nash’s comments come in the wake of New York City Mayor Eric Adams saying earlier Wednesday that he was optimistic a vaccination mandate would eventually be phased out — much the same way the restrictions have started to change in other cities across America — which would allow unvaccinated workers, such as Irving, to go back to working without any restrictions.
“I can’t wait to get it done,” Adams told reporters on Wednesday when asked if New York City was going to start phasing out vaccination restrictions much like Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., has. “I take my hat off to New Yorkers — through masks, vaccines, through social distancing, we were hit with the uncertainty, the fear of COVID. I’m really proud of how we responded as New Yorkers. And every morning I meet with my health professionals. Because I always stated I’m going to follow the science. I’m not going to get ahead of the science, because I’m ready to get ahead of all of this and get back to a level of normalcy.
“But they’re giving us clear instructions, they’ve given us benchmarks, we’re going to follow those benchmarks. But I look forward in the next few weeks of going through a real transformation — that I don’t have to wonder what you look like … We’re going to get the city back up and operating. And we’re going to be rolling out some things in the next day or so on how we’re going to carry that out.”
Nash was pleased when he was briefed on Adams’ comments, but the Nets remain in a holding pattern as to when the reversal might finally come down.
“It’s great, obviously,” Nash said. “It would be great for us to have Kyrie available for all our games. Having said that, it’s not really in our control, so we’ll leave it up to the mayor and wait patiently.”
Nash said that whenever the mandate is lifted, he feels Irving will be ready to play in every game. The Nets have only 23 regular-season games left.
“I think he’s working towards being able to play in every game,” Nash said. “So if the mandate is lifted, the expectation would be that he can play in all our games. I think that’s what he’s been waiting for and what he’s excited about, and if the opportunity arises, the plan and the goal is to play every night.”
Irving went through Wednesday’s practice, but the Nets declined to make him available for comment. Nets forward James Johnson spoke for a lot of Nets personnel while discussing Irving’s situation after practice.
“Of course we would love for him to play,” Johnson said. “And of course it doesn’t make sense, but I don’t make the rules on that. Hopefully soon we can have him with us every game, though.”