Nash says Nets don't expect Irving for NBA home games

Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets follows the action from the bench during a pre season game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on October 3, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by KEVORK DJANSEZIAN / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash said the NBA team understands that star guard Kyrie Irving won't be unavailable for home games because he remains unvaccinated for COVID-19.

A vaccination mandate by New York City means Irving may not play in home games unless he receives the injection.

Similar regulations would keep the seven-time All-Star out in road games at San Francisco, Los Angeles and against the New York Knicks as well.

"I think we recognize he's not playing home games," Nash said Sunday after practice. "So we're going to have to for sure play without him this year. So it just depends on when, where and how much."

Irving took part in his first practice with his teammates at the team's workout facility after a ruling Friday by the city that such sessions are in a "private office space" and therefore not covered by the rule, unlike games.

"We're just starting to navigate this," Nash said. "A new rule comes in Friday and here we are.

"We're trying to look at the big picture, the near-term. Right now, I'm not sure that we have as many answers. We're just trying to re-implement him back into the training arena and get his body right and make decisions as we go."

While the team hopes for another rule change to allow Irving to play in home games, there's no guarantee that will come at any point in a six-month NBA season that tips off October 19.

"We assume he's not going to be available for home games," Nash said. "Anything can change. Who's to say? The city's ordinance could change? Anything could change.

"We're just trying to remain flexible, open-minded and figure it out as we go because information is coming in by the half-day here."

Kevin Durant, the 2014 NBA Most Valuable Player and a two-time NBA champion, and James Harden, the 2018 NBA MVP and a three-time league scoring champion, will power the Nets into the 2021-22 campaign no matter what Irving's status might be.

Nets forward Blake Griffin, a six-time All-Star, says Irving moving in and out of the lineup isn't such a challenge for the club.

"It's never really an issue of fitting in at all," Griffin said. "I've known Kyrie for so long. When he's around, the energy is better. You always notice his presence. So there's no 'getting used to' -- it's just like he's back and we're here to support him however.

"We're always glad when he's around."

The Nets are still working on fitness and conditioning issues with Irving after his missed time in the gym.

Barring a change in vaccination policy or Irving getting an injection, he will miss the Nets' final pre-season game Thursday against Minnesota as well as a pre-season game Monday at Philadelphia.

The Nets begin their regular season on October 19 at reigning NBA champion Milwaukee.