There are two ways to get back.
In the middle of the season, Kyrie Irving came back to the Nets, but only on a part-time basis. He was unable to play because he refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
For the first time in 30 years, Klay Thompson is going to play for the Golden State Warriors on Sunday. He has been out of the game because of injuries that were completely out of the blue. Some of it was hard, but it took 30 months and two and a half seasons of hard and heartbreaking rehab.
Thompson’s return gives us a chance to look again at one of the most symbiotic relationships in sports. From 2012 until Thompson’s first injury in 2019, he and Stephen Curry, his best friend and teammate in the backcourt, taught him how to be a great player together. They showed him how to do ballet-like moves and passes, as well as jumpers from every angle.
Part II of Klay and Steph is finally here.
There are some questions about Thompson’s return, but they’re as simple and easy to answer as his pull-up 3-point shots. Will he be back to the All-Star form that helped Golden State win three NBA championships in a row? How long will it take?
Irving’s return is a different story. His return is a risk. In the first place, it sends the wrong message about personal responsibility in the middle of a public crisis. It also makes the Nets a mess. As the team nears its big goals, Irving’s most recent actions have cast a shadow over them. He was here for one game and gone the next.
In Irving’s return to the Nets, he scored 22 points and led the team back from a 19-point deficit to beat the Indiana Pacers, 129-121. This proves that Irving is one of the best players in the game when he weaves thru teams and slices down the court.
Kyrie Irving is just as hard to find on the field as he is off of it. In the NBA, there may not be another point guard as good at getting the rest of his team involved with precise passes. But he also has a bad reputation for being an erratic person who can quickly break down teams. See the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers for more.
Kyrie Irving believes that the earth is flat. That was once a funny sideshow that he couldn’t explain in a way that made sense to him.
How did Irving feel about his decision not to get vaccines during a pandemic that has killed at least five million people around the world and more than 830,000 people in the United States? What a disgrace! What a disgrace!
How much has this world changed in three months. New York City rules say that people who work at big stadiums like the Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden must be vaccinated against the virus. In October, Nets officials said they would not let Kyrie Irving play on their team if he didn’t follow these rules.
Why bother when the team is away from home?
The general manager said that “everyone in our company must work together.”
Of course, the Nets squirmed. Almost every other team in the NBA has been using a lot of minor league players in their lineups because COVID-19 protocols have kept so many regulars away from the court. It didn’t matter that by this week, every player who had been suspended because of positive coronavirus tests had come back. The Nets still had a reason to change their mind about Irving.
New York City has been hit by a new coronavirus variant in this plague, and Brooklyn made a business decision to change its rules. As soon as Irving is back, he will add to the bottom line of sports: winning and getting paid for it.
A championship is what the Nets, who have Kevin Durant and James Harden, want to win. The question is not about wonder and potential, but logistics.
In order to get into Canada, you need to be vaccinated. If Kyrie Irving can’t play at home against the Knicks or at home versus the Knicks’ crosstown rivals, does that mean the Nets have the best chance of winning the title?
A lot of N.B.A. championship basketball comes from a lot of repetition. It needs a team of players who know each other’s every move on the court. It moves at the same time and in the same rhythm as a great Miles Davis group. Because Irving is there, are the Nets better than they were without him? As a result, will they never get into a rhythm that could lead them to win a title?